'I'm A Pro Surfer And A... Golfer?' The Secret Lives Of Surfers When They're Not Riding Waves
Did you know Kelly Slater could have been a pro golfer?!
Pro surfers tend to have a lot of time on their hands. Some of them even manage to use it very wisely.
Yes, there's the odd party and award ceremony to attend, but don't think that every minute of their time is spent surfing. Extra-curricular activities are important to surfers - whether it's dicing in martial arts or even playing a round of golf.
I bet you didn't realise how many hobbies these surf pros had....
Surf and music have gone together since Dick Dale back in the 1960s. It’s no surprise that some of the world’s best surfers spend a good chunk of their considerable spare time plucking the six strings of a guitar.
Of course Kelly Slater is probably the most famous. He recently “released" a new single, Feelin' The Feelings, and was in the world’s most obvious named band, Surfers, in the 1990s.
"Some unknown called Jack Johnson used to surf Pipeline..."
His Surfers bandmate and former world number two Rob Machado also packs a guitar before his surfboards on most trips. Three times World Champion Tom Curren has released several albums and has been playing gigs for 20 years.
In Australia legendary freesurfer and progressive aerialist Ozzie Wright plays guitar and sings for his band The Goons of Doom. “At first I didn’t know one end of the guitar from the other," Wright told Mpora, “and while I still suck, somehow we have been going for a decade and I never ever get tired of playing a gig."
When you add professional freesurfer Donavan Frankenreiter (who is more famous for his music than his ‘70s style of surfing) and big-wave legend Makua Rothman, (who has a new album of ukulele-based tunes), you can see that this guitar business is really catching on.
Oh and some unknown called Jack Johnson use to surf Pipeline.
“I am only good at two things, surfing and golf," Bruce Irons, told Mpora. “And to be honest, I’m not very good at golf." Like many pro surfers, that doesn’t stop Bruce Irons from being a complete golf obsessive.
Of all the professional surfers, it is perhaps unsurprising that Kelly Slater is the best at golf. He's even on record as saying he would have tried a professional golf career if surfing didn’t work out.
"Kelly Slater said he would have tried being a pro golfer if surfing didn't work out"
Despite only learning to play at 23, he has a four handicap, plays more than 150 rounds a year and has birdied the 18th hole at Pebble Beach, one of golf’s most challenging holes.
Hawaiian Dusty Payne, 25, is said to video-analyse his golf swing almost as much as his surfing. Australian Julian Wilson also has a low handicap and a 300 yard plus drive and has formed a good friendship with Australian US Masters winner Adam Scott.
Scott has loads of surfer mates and had former professional surfer Benji Weatherly caddie from him this year at the Sony Open in Hawaii. Former number one amateur golfer Rickie Fowler and Hawaiian surfer Ian Walsh are also good mates. It seems the links between golfing and surfing are ever increasing.
“Fifteen years ago nobody in the surf industry played golf, and now it seems almost everybody does," Bob McKnight, cofounder of Quiksilver recently told GolfDigest.
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One of the world’s best big-wave surfers has recently turned into the world’s best (or most insane) surf photographer.
“I suppose it’s the impact of the GoPro cameras," Mark Mathews told Mpora. “I saw the crazy angles and thought that even a better angle would be If I was holding a camera with another surfer in the tube, that’s how it started."
That Mark decided to test the technique at The Right in Australia, one of the heaviest waves in the world, shows how much he was into it.
Elsewhere other pro surfers have taken the more traditional approach. John John Florence has been interested in photography since a young age and is never caught without a camera to hand. “There’s nothing worse than seeing an image in your mind and not having a camera," he recently told Disillusion magazine.
Big wave surfer Rusty Long has turned to the camera to fund his search for the world’s biggest waves. His photos have been published in a wide variety of media, both surf and mainstream.
Two times world champion Tom Carroll has had a thirty year love affair with photography. “Photography is one of my main passions. It allowed to me enter another world and can be an escape from surfing, which at times I find all consuming," Carroll told Mpora.
While the attraction of grappling with large sweaty men doesn’t seem to have to much in common with surfing, the martial art of Ju-Jitsu has swept like wildfire (or ringworm) through the top echelon of surfing’s ranks.
For this we can thank the Grace family, a clan of surfers and Ju-Jitsu world champions from Brazil who exported their sport to the west coast of America in the early ‘90s. World famous longboarder Joel Tudor was one of the early adopters and has won numerous national titles and now runs a school in California.
“I have been using it for training it for the last few years," Tahitian and world number six Michel Bourez told Mpora. “My coach and trainer Yannick Bevan is a master and its great for surfing. It is good for fitness, stamina, discipline and focus."
French surfer Jeremy Flores is a long time devotee and Kelly Slater dons the whites and hits the mat at regular intervals. Ex pro surfers like Hawaiian Dustin Barca and Australian Richie Vass have taken their love of grappling to a wider stage and incorporated into their Mixed Martial Arts careers.
“If I can’t surf, I fish, that’s probably where I am most happy," Joel Parkinson told Mpora on his passion for angling.
This is a man who once missed a heat in Fiji after going on a deep sea fishing expedition (to be fair there was some engine problems) and who puts his world title as an achievement just above a record dog tooth tuna he caught on a boat trip in the Mentawais.
"Parko puts his world title as an achievement just above the record dogtooth tuna he caught once"
Parko is not alone with his dedication to all fishing. Increasingly surfing and fishing are being sold as the same package.
Australian surf brand The Mad Hueys - featuring ex-pro surfers Shaun and Dean Harrington, Brent Dorrington and Damon Nicols - spend as much time filming their fishing trips as their surf missions.
Hawaiian Mark Healy, one of the world’s premier big wave surfers, has been making a huge profile as much through is spearfishing as his riding 50 foot waves at Jaws. He has recently been sponsored by a new brand called Depactus. It's owned by former world number two Luke Egan and is based around fishing, surfing, diving and hunting.
The same can be said for Salty Crew, a California based company who sponsor CJ Hobgood and Nathan Hedge.
“It was always my on land adrenaline fix. If I couldn't surf, I’d jump on motorbike and go hit the jumps. Still do." That was Gary “Kong" Elkerton who till this day is still sponsored by KTM and hits the dirt pretty hard.
He is joined by his long time rival and 2000 world champ Sunny Garcia, who is an avid moto fan and has befriended some of the sport’s biggest stars.
It seems these days pro surfers are less likely to take up motocross, their chance of injury too great to risk time out of the water and their lucrative contracts.
Having said that Deus ex Machina, a brand formed by Mambo’s founder Dare Jennings, has combined motorcycle culture with heritage surf to successful effect.
“I’m loving the bike side of things," said sponsored rider Harrison Roach. “Be it on long adventures in Indo or hooning around a track, there is so much freedom and adrenalin. It’s addictive."
“If you make a single mistake, you’re tomahawking for 3,000ft," Ian Walsh tells Mpora. “But it’s not like with big waves. In snowboarding, the fear comes when you are hiking or in the chopper and the scariest moment is when you are putting your bindings on."
Like many surfers, big-wave charger Ian Walsh from Maui likes to go snowboarding. Unlike a lot of surfers, he has does it in the Alaskan and Jackson Hole backcountry with snowboard legends like Travis Rice.
"If you make a single mistake, you're tomahawking for 3,000ft"
“As soon as you get that first edge in the snow, you feel the consistency and speed of the snow. It's just like catching a big wave, you stop thinking and just start reacting. As soon as you commit you are so focused, it’s a whole new world."
Other surfers who a pretty handy snowboarders include legend Pipeline surfer Gerry Lopez who lives in Oregon, Nathan Fletcher, Gary “Kong" Elkerton, Ross Clarke-Jones and an unknown Norwegian called Terje Haakonsen.
The Quik Cup, a combined competition for surfing and snowboarding, ran in France and Australia for ten years until 2002.