So you think you rip and you’re ready for your first sponsorship – but how do you get stickers on your board and land a spot on a surf company’s payroll? There’s no easy answer, but the two most important components that will help you pick up a sponsorship are surfing your best and marketing yourself even better.
Just because you’re a local standout doesn’t mean all the big surf companies are going to come knocking; there’s a lot more to landing a sponsorship than being able to gouge a top turn and punt a few airs. On the flip side, there’s never been a better time to be a grom looking to get sponsored. If you work hard on your surfing and successfully network with your local surf scene, you could be on your way to Bali with a fresh quiver of boards before you’re old enough to drive a car.
Surf Bigger & Better
It’s pretty straightforward: the bigger you go and the harder you charge, the more attention you’re going to get in the water. Become a student of the sport. Discipline yourself to work on areas that need improvement, while polishing your better maneuvers. Be the first one in the water, the last one out, and don’t be afraid to paddle out when conditions are less than ideal, even if your friends won’t. You’re the one trying to get sponsored, right?
One of the most common areas where young surfers need improvement is surfing larger waves. It’s understandable – unless you were born and bred on the North Shore of Oahu, you’re probably not going to be surfing large conditions regularly. That means that when it’s pumping, get on it, and push yourself to be comfortable taking off on a bomb or two. Being able to throw down a mean rail turn on a massive wall or pull into an overhead barrel will go a long way in the eyes of photographers, videographers, and potential sponsors.
Surfing local contests is a great way to spark the interest of local industry people, especially if you’re winning. Strong contest results will also bring you publicity – online or print – and that’s a great start towards becoming a marketable surfer. Remember, your goal is to bring value to a company by promoting their brand. Making regular appearances on the contest podium and getting your picture taken by local surf media are strong incentives for companies to open their checkbooks.
Put Together a Resume
Take the time to construct a resume, and be sure to include video footage. Writing about your ability to shred your local beach break is peanuts compared to documented video evidence of your ripping prowess. Even if the footage isn’t Taylor Steele quality, when it comes to self-promotion, seeing is believing. Save your dough, buy a camera, and switch off filming and surfing with your buddies whenever the waves get good.
Hot Tip: Network
As with searching for a job in the big, scary real world, networking is extremely important to landing a sponsorship. Know who your local reps are, and check in with your local surf shop frequently to build a relationship. It also helps to keep an eye on local pros and amateurs in your area. Try to get to know the local talent, even if it's just a head nod out in the water. Once a bro, always a bro.
Getting sponsored isn’t easy, especially if you lack Dane Reynolds-like talent. Luckily, even if you aren’t a recognized innovator of the sport, you can still grab a sponsorship with a little hard work and a positive attitude. Remember that companies are looking for the total package – they want skilled surfers, sure, but they’re also looking for positive representatives of their brand. That means standing out by being a strong student, possessing great social skills, and having a good attitude can be just as important as your ability to stand out in the water.
Don’t get discouraged if your email inbox doesn’t instantly explode with offers right away – be patient, surf hard, and stay stoked. It’ll all pay off in the end.