Would you rather be a competitive or a freesurfer?

Norbert Ferenczi
23 of March 2023
Would you rather be a competitive or a freesurfer?

For a moment just play with the thought if you would have the right abbilities. Would you rather be a competitive or a freesurfer?

In this article we introduce you for a few facts and play along with the idea. Which profession would suit us better?

People always say money makes the world go round. So first we did some research on the highest paid competitive and free surfers. The highest paid competitive surfer in 2022 was Gabriel Medina  with the ammount of 2,2 million dollars .

In fact, the second overall highest paid surfer was Mick Fanning with 1,8 million dollars  who earned all those chips out of the competition and he is considered as a free surfer now.

The highest overall surfer is the still competing 11x world champion Kelly Slater who made his fortune by winning all those comps but also owns clothing brand, food company, soft drink company , Slater designs and the Surf Ranch (wave pool technology). 

Most of the money came out of the competition for all these athletes but all of them are World Champions and have been on the tour for a long time so popular brand owners know well that they are worth investing in.

Without competing or having a competitive background it is quite hard to run after the millions but for sure possible to earn for a living by vlogs ads and occasional surfing movies.

But is it just about the money? How are the 2 professions physically and mentally affecting the athletes?

The reason why competitive surfers suffer more injuries is the intensity of the tour. They must be ready for all the compatitions and they don’t have much time to rest in between.

Furthermore, they got to train and be in their best shape all the time. This puts lots of pressure on them and their body can break quite easily.

A free surfer is also having some pressure on the shoulders because they must deliver for the sponsors or movie directors as well but they can always repeat the wave and the only thing that matters will be the wave which is on tape.

Many competitive surfers as well complained about mental health issues after being in the spotlight for many years and the pressure that comes with all stops of the tour. 

Portimão, Algarve

What about the soul of surfing?

There are plenty of ex competitors who rather became a freesurfer after many years on the tour because they felt something was lost at surfing. The most famous examples are Rob Machado and Dave Rastovich.

Both of them are high class surfers and would have the skills to still compete and even win competitions but because of the judges in the game they decided to retire early and just freesurf.

Dave Rastovich in “Fishpeople” remembers back of the competition days when after a heat he was in exstasy how happy he was , just surfing waves.

Right after people were  telling him you lost, you are a loser “How is that possible, like I just spent a day on the beach, having fun”.

So because of constant judgment and trying to be good for the judges rather than for themselves, many surfers decided to bring their talent to a different direction.

If you ask me: I would say the soul of surfing is in Freesurf.  But if you are looking for money and fame you have to be a top competitor and swallow down all the disadvantages with it.