Nate Yeomans is a surfer's professional surfer, a working class Californian ripper with a dogged dedication to competing and building a life from his talents in the water.
Innate (which premieres tonight in San Clemente, CA, and which you can watch here on SurferMag.com) chronicles Nate's competitive journey starting in 2009, after which he was cut in the notoriously cold shift in the ASP — from a World Tour featuring 44 surfers, to a slimmed-down 32 — in 2010. But a big win at last year's Coldwater Classic Invitational provided Nate a $50,000 sponsorship, and a second chance at making The Tour.
We caught up with Nate returning from a tough result in Brazil, as he was spending some quality time with his family celebrating his son's first birthday, getting ready for his film's premiere, and mentally preparing for the tour's Hawaiian leg, which he enters ranked No. 21 and in positive spirits.
This film documents a period in your life that might not have been possible. Can you talk about where your head was at after winning the CWC last year?
Hey, if that didn't happen it was going to be the end of my surfing career. It sure is rad that O'Neill put that on two years in a row. Without a main sponsor, getting to those events and competing is one of the only ways to make a living as a surfer.
Innate opens on your 2009 win at the Coldwater Classic, qualifying for the 2010 WCT at Haleiwa, then being thrown on the chopping block mid-year in 2010 after eight years working to qualify. Working on this project, what was it like looking back on that time?
The longevity of my career is the cool part of the story. I think people can relate to my story more than someone who is just winning everything. I've been a surfing professional for a long time, and my story is about overcoming and persevering. I'm talented enough, but this project has been about the ups and downs, the let-downs, everything in-between, and just the making of a career in professional surfing.
You've got a good group of guys—Nathan Hedge, Damien Hobgood, Tanner Gudauskas— who share a similar working class ethos in the film.
Yeah, those guys really understand where I'm at. Knowing them as friends and being able to talk to them about that life—not having a main sponsor, really wanting to still do it, still having that competitive side—it's nice to have them speaking to the piece. They're really well-spoken, and it's nice to have their experiences in there.
What do you want people to take away from your story?
On the inner circle of competing, it's pretty damn rad, and should be celebrated. Just because you're not the guy with the trophy over your head — that doesn't mean you haven't accomplished something special. There will be a lot of hurdles and naysayers. In an individual sport, you get jealous of all these people that have certain opportunities. But the reality of it is you're still living an American dream. It was my dream, and I've gotten to live it for a long time.