In 2007, at the height of the surf industry's financial prosperity, we put together a rather naive piece titled "How To Get Sponsored." At the time, companies were so flush with cash that they were throwing contracts at any 10-year-old who could put together a half-decent cutback. Oh, how times have changed. Nearly six years later, with the industry in flux and team rosters cut to the bone, it’s clear that the road to sponsorship has never been more difficult to traverse. Below, Nick Greeninger—a one time Rip Curl team manager turned agent for a handful of today's top pros—lays out the reality what it's going to take to obtain a sponsor in today's anemic environment.
How to Get Sponsored:
Adjust Your Expectations
It's no secret that the surf industry is going through some transitions. Needless to say, it's harder than ever to pick up a sponsor. There are lots of surfers out there who have done everything right and still can't make a career out of it. If you're fortunate enough to have a company support you from a young age, you'll need to understand that you're not going to be going on plush photo trips or be making a monthly paycheck anymore. Those days are gone. It's a different world today. So the best advice I could give a young surfer looking for a sponsor is to adjust your expectations. Be thankful that you can get anything. But also keep in mind that being a pro surfer isn't everything. Hopefully you didn't start surfing to put stickers on your board, so if it doesn't happen for you, it's not the end of the world. You're still a surfer.
If you're looking for a sponsor, the best thing you can do is to start with your local surf shop. Keep it local. Surf a ton. Get on your high school surf team. Enter all the local contests you can. When you're not in school and you're not in the lineup, spend time at the shop and do what you can to support them as a team rider. Surf shops are part of the surfing experience and are a big part of our culture. I love walking into a shop and seeing groms hanging out. Believe it or not, the time you spend in the shop is actually how you'll start moving up the ranks. You'll undoubtedly run into sales reps coming in and out of the shop. If you're surfing well, representing the shop in a positive way, and have a good head on your shoulders, the sales rep will get to know your name. From there, they might pass your name onto his company's regional team rider. With any luck, you guys will build a relationship and they'll throw you some clothes and stickers. Like I said, don't expect boat trips anymore.
Go To Traditional School
One of the biggest pieces of advice that I can give out is to go to traditional school. We saw way too many kids going the homeschool route over the past few years. I personally believe that traditional school is a better option on a number of levels. We've seen that, even with the top guys, you can go to traditional school and still be a top-tier athlete. Dillon Perillo, Zeke Lau, Carissa Moore, and Nat Young all went to a regular high school and were able to balance that with the demands of simultaneously being a professional surfer. But more than just that, I think it's in the best interest of the company you're riding for to have you in a traditional school. You'll be socializing. You'll be wearing their clothes and representing their brand to your friends and the other kids in school. That's what they need and want.
Elevate Your Attitude and Your Surfing
Being a talented surfer with a terrible attitude will get you absolutely nowhere in surfing. No one will want to work with you. The surf industry doesn't need their athletes causing trouble. They don't want to be attached to someone that's going to lower the image of their brand. I'm not saying that every surfer can't be an individual or just be themselves, but don't be a jerk. It's just like anything else in life: no one wants to hang out with you if you're constantly bringing them down and getting into a bunch of drama. We've seen that a lot in the past where some of the most talented guys weren't getting media exposure because no one wanted to work with them. Today, you have to be an amazingly talented surfer and also someone that people will want to work with.