AT LONG LAST: Big Wave Hellman, Greg Long, Finally Gets His Due

In our July 2008 issue, I wrote a story about the financial challenges facing modern big wave surfers. [Immense Equality] Greg Long, then unsponsored and paying for trips with his dwindling savings and contest winnings, was the feature's center piece. But we're happy to report that those days are behind him. Long, widely regarded as one of the best big wave surfers in the world, just signed a comprehensive deal with Billabong. Here are his thoughts on opening a new chapter in his career. —Alex Wilson

So, after a year and a half of being unsponsored you just signed with Billabong.

Yeah I'm really excited

How'd that all go down?

Going into this last year I basically told myself, "Obviously you don’t have a major sponsor to support you through this. But what would you rather be doing?” It really wasn't a question.

It went down well. It was one of those things where we were both right on the same page as far as where I'm at in my career and where the company is and the direction we want to go. It happened so fast. It was one of those things that felt right. It's exactly what I've been looking for during the last year and a half. It was one of those meetings where you aren't trying to force something to happen. When it's meant to be, it's meant to be, and I guess now it's time, so I'm really excited. I've always been a huge fan of the Billabong brand's products and have a great relationship with everybody working within the company. They are, by far, the most dedicated supporter of big wave and adventure surfing, which is what I've built my lifestyle around. I think the two go hand and hand.

Last time I talked to you, you were a little worried about your career. You were going to start lifeguarding again.

Yeah, I mean it's one of those things, obviously, the way I was traveling this last year, one swell to the next, really making that extra effort—it's not a cheap travel program to be on. Going into this last year I basically told myself, "Obviously you don't have a major sponsor to support you through this. But what would you rather be doing? Sitting here, with that money in the bank?" It really wasn't a question. It came down to believing in myself and what I'm out there doing—having faith that everything is going to work out, which it always does, one way or the next.

I mean, I was a little concerned about the financial situation, but you can't let those kind of things drag you down. I'm not out there surfing for the money or stardom or fame or crap. It's because I love doing it, and I love traveling and surfing big waves. I made that conscious decision that I'm not going to let anything stand in the way. I always knew something was going to work out sooner or later. It happened to be on the later side of things, but that's the way it goes.

Now that you've got the backing, do you have any big plans as far as the next few seasons coming up?

I've found in the past few years I have these places I really love traveling to. I'm off to South Africa tomorrow for two and a half months and the duration of the winter down there, maybe going to West Oz or Indo. Any number of places. There're definitely a lot of travel plans and projects we've got coming up. It's amazing how far the whole big wave surfing thing's come the last few years. There's really no end to where we can go out there. The potential to pursue—there's always new, undiscovered breaks and old breaks breaking again. There's never going to be a day that's over 20 feet that you're not sitting on the edge of your seat and excited to see it, so, really I'm just excited to be out on the road traveling and working with such a great company and great crew of individuals.