How To Get Sponsored in 2013

The tough reality of becoming a professional surfer

| posted on July 16, 2013
How to Get Sponsored

Sterling Spencer is a great example of someone who adapted to the times in order to be a pro in 2013. Photo: Glaser

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.

Start Local
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.

  • Dany

    Apparently there are some exceptions to the last point since Joan Duru is still getting support while being an aggressive and violent kook.

  • larkstan

    Outstanding advice. Pay attention, kids. Thank you, Nick (and Surfer).

  • Reality

    Great advice. A funny thing I noticed about the new generation: I am impressed with the great attitudes, and respectful demeanors of so many of the groms. A ways back, so many of the kids that ripped coming up were bastards that had a sense of entitlement far beyond where their abilities would take them outside their local break. Now, so many kids seem to have a better sense of overall presentation to enhance their talents. There are also some incredibly talented guys that saw the writing on the wall early, started businesses/or went to college and still kill it, while launching successful ventures. Too many pros from the 80’s and 90’s ended up lost on the side of the road of life once the sponsorships ran out.

  • scumbag Steve

    You forgot the part about it being okay to just be an average surfer so long as you have a motorcycle/tattoos. Totally Sponsored.

  • Keith B.

    One important thing to remember when being sponsored is that its not all about getting free stuff and being able to show it off to your friends. Its about representing a company and helping the company grow. Thing about it. You see a guy that’s surfing really good and he’s riding a “WRV” brand surfboard and your mentality is if I get a WRV board I can be just as good or it’ll help me surf better. So in turn the sponsorship helped the company possibly make a sell. Not rocket science but if the company that’s sponsoring you isn’t making money they can’t sponsor people. Being a team rider you will get deals and even free stuff but in turn they benefit by hopefully making sales because your out there surfing amazing and people want to be like you riding the same boards, fins, etc..

  • eric

    Sterling Spencer is a great example of how to adapt. Come up with a gimmick. Act like a hipster idiot and blog about it. The $ will follow.

    • Mo daddy

      Someone’s jealous….

  • Joe Crimo

    Regarding the last point about “Elevate your attitude”: I think Bobby “This ain’t f**kn tennis” Martinez is a prime example of what NOT todo. Although I think he is a great surfer and appreciate his balls to speak his mind, I think it would have been awesome to see his career progress on the tour, whereas now his is completely MIA. Talent gone to waste, unless he makes a comeback.

    Point 2: if you make it as a pro surfer, it should be a mandatory requirement that 2 weeks per year you are forced to do some typical office desk job that the rest of the 99.9% of surfers have to endure to truly appreciate how good you have it. I can’t stand hearing pros complain about their jobs, f**k them!

    • Barny whiting

      Its not a waste of talent if he free surfing and inspiring others – he defo inspires me :/

    • Guest123

      Rude and un called for

  • Surfer mom

    Great advice, especially about staying in regular school. Lots of the homeschoolers never finish high school and some don’t even surf much any more, and their social skills are under-developed!

  • Spoiled brat

    Other things that help: Have rich parents, kiss everyone’s ass that matters, burn everyone else.

    • Harry

      My friend is 13 same as me and he already has two sponsors both with surf shops he got them from going to the shop buying stuff and telling people about there shop it is hard to get a sponsor but all you have to do is walk into a local shop news agency ,iga ,cafa ,or surf shop and ask them for a sponsorship and see how it pans out from there.

  • sean

    So, how do people like Makua Rothman still get sponsored and sent all over the world? I’ve heard many negative stories (if they are true) about him from people on three different continents. Apparently coolness and lineage (intimidation?) do play a part in it?

  • Bushy

    Waiting for the next article – How To Keep A Sponsor – I do not think any of the above apply – have seen many great brand ambassadors dropped lately. Guys that are visible, getting results/photos and seem to have good attitudes. Bottom line – if you want loyalty, get a dog. Ride the sponsored gravy train for as long as you can, it aint gonna last forever.

  • Center Line

    Surfing is more than just and industry. Hope the industry dies. Especially the clothing brands. There will always be a demand for surfboards made by people who actually make the boards. If Quiksilver, Billabong, Hurely, Volcom, or whoever is gonna give clothes to somebody, they should give the clothes to people who can’t afford to buy them. But that wouldn’t be so good for making money in the advertisement sense, unless there was an alterior motive.

    • Suzy

      you are so right…. i have that problem you told.I love surfing since aged 10 years.With an age of 17 I have got my first possibility to do my Favorited sport. After I have had to save up for 2 Years to get so a surf camp cause an other way would not possible to surf for me because I have no own board or clothes to surf (It would be to could for surfing in Bikini and Board short)………. I hope for a revolution or any other way to get surf by my own.

  • Surf Doc

    So what happens to the 99.99% of kids that don’t get sponsored and go pro? A nice follow up article would be how to remain a surfer while focusing on a traditional career.

    • Mo daddy

      That’s not what this article is about

    • Dhskaiwnsk

      I’m pretty sure you can surf while keeping a job. I know I am.

  • SurfDad

    I have a 13 year old daughter, Shes surfing NSSA, ESA, SA Prime Series and Killing it, Has great contest results, Sick website tons of photos and quarterly press releases, social media. Has some accessory sponsors & a shop but cant seem to even get recognized by The clothing companies, Shes doing frontside airs and traveled cali, hawaii, costa. Honor roll student as well were from florida. Any advice?

    • someguy

      Move to California. I see girls with clothing sponsors up and down their boards, and they’re not even close to doing frontside airs. Plus, Florida doesn’t really have as much swell as California gets, and Lowers is a talent pool full of photographers waiting for the next Steph Gilmore to spawn out.

    • California born

      Don’t refer to California as “cali”

      • Guest20

        Back off

    • kate

      Hey there, I saw your post and am very interested in helping your daughter out with her surfing and getting the right eyes looking her way as far as sponsorship and future opportunities in her surfing. I have started a new Business called GRAB A GROM. Please email me directly at and check out the instagram account : grabagrom . The website and Facebook page are still in progess.

      I lived in Savannah for four years and moved back to Australia to start my business in June this year. I have been on surfing trips several times as Tybee Island’s (Coast of Savannah) waves are very small. I am planning on making my business global , and specifically starting in Aus, Usa & Hawaii. Keep in touch and look forward to hearing back from you guys.


      Kate 🙂

    • Surfingengineer

      Tell your daughter to email me ASAP … I’ll help her out nicely …. Real nice

  • Kaukahi

    Hi im kaukahi and I haven’t won any contests but can you help me get sponsored please because it would be a huge opportunity thank you

  • Cali

    I live in New Jersey and the swell here isnt that good but majority of the time its decent and I’ve done a couple of comps but i cant seem to land a sponsor… Not even a local one! A lot of my friend have sponsors but i have no idea how because they are average surfers that only ride in the summer and mostly ride waves that have already crashed, while i go all year and paddle out during almost every nor’easter… I just cant figure out how to get a sponsor! Any input?!

  • Demetrius

    you forgot to mention that you have already have rich parents, be blonde hair and blue eyes and live in southern cal = instant sponsor

  • jiva

    Thank u I sooooo much I know I am probably not ready yet but my mum cant afford all the stuff I need

  • Jeune

    Hi my name is Jeune hollar and I am 9 years old and looking for a sponsership.I can do a cutback,snap and get please keep me posted.

  • Jeune

    Hi my name is Jeune hollar and I am 9 years old. What will it take to get a sponsership