In the Red

Without a sponsor, Raoni Monteiro can no longer afford to compete full time on the World Tour

Despite qualifying for the World Tour, a sponsorless Raoni Monteiro may not be able to affort to continue competing. Photo: Ellis
Despite qualifying for the Tour, a sponsorless Raoni Monteiro may not be able to affort to continue competing. Photo: Ellis

In the days leading up to the holding period for the Hurley Pro at Trestles, Brazil’s Raoni Monteiro has had some tough decisions to make. Although he’s held a spot on the World Tour since 2011, he doesn’t have a main sponsor and is struggling to support a family back home while funding his travel to events abroad. We recently rang up Monteiro to ask him how he’s managing to keep up the balancing act, and if we can expect to see him at Trestles.

We heard that the reason that you were unable to compete at Teahupoo wasn’t because you were injured, but because you couldn’t afford to travel to Tahiti without a sponsor. Is that correct?

Yes, that’s correct. I haven’t had a sponsor for three years now and I’ve basically run out of money and have to pick and choose what events I can afford to travel to. I can’t tell you how unbelievably frustrating that is. I have a family over here in Brazil that I need to take care of and surfing is my profession. But it’s simply not paying the bills. I mean, I made it to the World Tour; it’s as high as you can go. There are only 34 guys in the whole world who can make it to this level. I did it. I worked unbelievably hard to get here. And now I can’t afford to do it any longer.

Are you going to be able to make it to Trestles?

It was close man. I almost couldn’t get the money together. But, yes, I’ll be there. I could only afford to get a plane ticket, though. I can’t pay for a car or a place to stay while I’m there. I’ll be walking a lot. Hopefully, I can stay with some other guys in a room or something. The only reason I’ve been able to go to this event was because of the help of my dad. He’s been loaning me money to travel. He owns a gym and has been working every day to help me out. I don’t know how I can ever repay him for something like that. But I wouldn’t be at Lowers next week if it wasn’t for his help.

How does your situation play into your psyche when you compete?

It’s really rough. I feel like, as a professional athlete, I can’t compete or surf my best if my head isn’t focused. And to be honest, it’s really difficult to put yourself in the right frame of mind to go out and compete against the best surfers in the world when you’re worried about how you’re going to feed your family.

So basically you’re only able to continue competing this year if you do well at an event.

Yes, that’s correct. I’m hoping that I can make some heats at Lowers. If I do well enough at Lowers, hopefully I’ll be able to go to Europe to compete. If I don’t make any heats, who knows. It’s just so expensive with the exchange rate and everything right now, too. But yes, it’ll be very hard for me to continue competing on the Tour if I don’t produce some results that’ll give me enough money to continue competing. But then, I also need to requalify so I’m supposed to be doing the ’QS too. It’s too much for me to pay for myself. I don’t even have a credit card.

Where do you go from here?

The other night, I went to my parents’ house and we had a big discussion and I kind of broke down. I don’t know what to do. I’m at a loss. This is my dream, to make the World Tour, but now I can’t afford to do it. If I don’t get a sponsor to help fund my travels, I may have to become a freesurfer and see if I can get a sponsor doing that. I don’t know. Even if I requalify, I might not do to the Tour next season because I can’t afford it.

I think a last place finish still earns something like $8,000, right? That’s still not enough to get you to and from each event?

If it were actually $8,000 that would help. But at some events, they tax a chunk of that out. What I would actually get, after the taxes, is something like 20 or 15 percent less than that. On average, I think it ends up being like $6,000. So when you have to pay for airfare, boards, food, a place to stay, a car—and then still have enough money to support your family back home and pay for your kid to go to the doctor; it’s just not enough.

What would you tell a prospective sponsor looking to support you?

I’ve thought about this a lot. First, I’m not looking for a huge paycheck. I just want enough support to be able to continue competing and take care of my family. I have a daughter and another kid on the way. Aside from that, I’m a well-rounded surfer and I’ve proven that I can compete with the best surfers in the world. Anyone that is interested in sponsoring me should know this: I promise that you won’t find someone else that will work as hard for you as I do. Every cent that you put into me, you’ll get back. You’re keeping my dream alive.