COOLANGATTA, Queensland/Australia (Wednesday, 15 June, 2011) - The life of a professional surfer may not be life you expected. Sure there's sponsorship dollars (for some), trips to exotic waves in far off lands, an endless array of surfboards at your disposal, magazine photo shoots and celebrity status. But what happens when the spotlight fades, if you're prematurely injured or if your curiosity reaches beyond surfing? Some surfers need a back-up plan. Some surfers go to University.
Chris Friend (Sunshine Coast, QLD/AUS) fresh from competing on the ASP Australasian Pro Junior Series is currently spending his first year in the big leagues tackling the ASP World Tour's Star and Prime events in the fight to qualify for the ASP World Title Series. It's an uphill battle. There're thousands of talented surfers at these events. Points are precious, prize-money is essential. So why go to University?
"There's a stigma about studying and surfing because not many professional surfers go to Uni," Friend said. "I've seen other athletes manage to do both and thought, why can't I? I've always wanted to study, I put school first when I was a grommet, but now it's about balancing surfing and studying. It's easy to get distracted when you're traveling, especially if the waves are pumping. The good thing is, this is something I want to do, and no one is forcing me. I just don't want to limit myself to surfing."
Currently studying a Bachelor of Business by distance education through an elite athlete program at the University of Southern Queensland, Friend has set his sights high, but has his feet firmly on the ground.
"I'd love to have an executive job at Volcom one day, CEO or something, hopefully after a successful competitive career," Friend said. "Volcom are really supportive, obviously I'm being paid by them to surf, so I need to be there and do that for them, but they are supportive of my studies too, which is a huge bonus. There are a lot of guys who try to write you off while your writing an essay on a plane, but I see it as time well spent. Traveling isn't easy, but there's so much downtime at airport lounges, on planes and in hotels. I'd rather use the time to further my education in something that I'm interested in than just watching TV and movies."
Friend recently earned a 3rd place finish at the ASP 4-Star Protest Vendee Pro in France, proving that his studies aren't putting out the competitive fire.
"It was tricky in Europe getting my study done," Friend said. "But if I can get all my work done and do well in my surfing it feels great. In France I finished an assignment and came 3rd in a contest and it really showed me that I can do both. I'll finish my d egree in about 5 years and by then I'd love to be competing in the ASP World Title Series."
Jessi Miley-Dyer (Bronte, NSW/AUS) is at the opposite end of the spectrum. She's been on the elite ASP World Tour for six years competing against the world's best surfers in the world's best waves. She's won, she's lost. She's had ups and downs. In 2006 she finished 4th in the world, and now at only 25 years of age she's considered one of the veterans on the ASP Women's World Tour. She's currently doing a double degree at UNSW, a Bachelor of Media (Communications and Journalism)/Bachelor of Law and she says it's easy.
"It's easy because it's just up the road from my house and they have an elite athlete program where they waive your attendance requirements and give you other support," Miley-Dyer said. "I found out about it through one of my friends who I used to swim train with when I was a kid who's now in the Australian Water Polo team. H e lives in Europe playing in the leagues over there, so I figured that if he could do it then I could too."
Miley-Dyer seized her chance to attend University after seeing some of her heroes retire from competitive surfing with zero qualifications for the real world.
"I decided to study because I've seen the generation of girls before me quit surfing and be lost as to what is the next step," Miley-Dyer said. "I can tie a boardbag on top of a rental car five different ways, cheat my way out of excess baggage and take yoghurt through the security checkpoints in airports, but somehow I feel like that's not going to look good on my resume. Though I am proud of these skills," She added.
After parting ways with her long-time sponsor late last year, Miley-Dyer is now traveling on the ASP Women's World Tour funded by her own bank account and prize-money. She knows better than most the advantages of being prepared for what ever the future may hold.
"I think that this is something that more surfers should be doing," Miley-Dyer said. "I'm seeing a lot of younger surfers not finishing high school and I think it's something that's going to turn into a problem. We should be encouraging the next generation to finish some form of education because otherwise we are just continuing on the dopey surfer stereotype."
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