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My Odd Job: What it’s like to be a female professional surfer

I have a feeling that surfers are either thought of as beach bums or bikini models prancing around the beach with a surfboard always surfing dreamy, warm waves.

As a pro-surfer, I’m no different to any other athlete: I spend my days, weeks and months training hard both on water and land to take part in events and competitions around the world.

When it comes to earning a living as pro surfer, I’m lucky that I can now focus on it full-time – but that hasn’t always been the case. It’s only this year that the World Surf League has started offering equal prize money to male and female surfers, and I’ve reached a point in my career where I can earn a living doing this alone.

I spend my days, weeks and months training hard both on water and land to take part in events and competitions around the world (Picture: Mike Newman Photography/Metro.co.uk)

For years I’ve had to work many different jobs – surf instructor, bar work, waitress, cafe work, cleaner – and fit them around my training.

I’d often work 16 hour days through the summer, teaching in the surf school from nine to five, then I’d grab a quick dinner and nap before heading to the bar and work until 1am. 

I’d be exhausted by the time summer was over but it meant that I could get to consistent waves and train through the winter. I’d spend all of my savings to fund competing and training then start it all over again the next summer.

Now as well as surfing I also work with brands to create content for their websites and social media pages. I have also featured in some adverts and campaigns for companies such as Coca-Cola and Land Rover.

I’m lucky that I can now focus on it full-time – but that hasn’t always been the case (Picture: Lucy Campbell)

But as with most self-employed jobs, you are your own secretary, travel agent, accountant, social media expert, web designer – you name it – so there is always heaps of admin and emails to be done. I have to be pretty organised to find the balance between the work and training.

I surf every day without fail, and my days are almost always planned around what the tide, wind and waves are doing. I live in Woolacombe, North Devon, and I am lucky enough to have view of the beach and waves from my bedroom. Usually I’ll try to surf early and will be in the water for an hour or two – more if the waves are good.

It’s not all glamorous. I have to get myself out of bed in the middle of winter to surf freezing cold, windy conditions and get changed in a car park when the temperatures are below freezing and it’s hailing.  

A surfer’s lifestyle isn’t always easy (Picture: Mike Newman Photography/Metro.co.uk)

I also do weights training in the gym or go for a run, maybe another surf and some stretching, as well as a lot of eating to refuel. At the moment I mostly eat plant-based, so lots of vegetables, grains and pulses and meat or fish only once or twice a week. I really enjoy cooking so cook from scratch as much as possible.

I don’t think people always imagine surfers as athletes or realise how strong you need to be in the ocean. Physically, surfing uses your whole body. You need to be pretty agile through the manoeuvres, and strong enough to generate speed on the waves.

Endurance is key when you need to paddle against the waves to get back out, and good balance helps too, of course.

A surfer’s lifestyle isn’t always easy. I’ve had cars break down on the way to contests, taxi drivers not allowing me to bring my boards and I often get strange comments when lugging my big board bag around through airports and cities.  

I’m usually only home for a few days at a time in between training trips and contests (Picture: Mike Newman Photography/Metro.co.uk)

Some of these mishaps have made the journey more of an adventure but it’s tough being away from my boyfriend, family and friends. I’m usually only home for a few days at a time in between training trips and contests.  

Surfing can also land you in some dangerous spots. The ocean always seems to find a way to humble you.

I’ve certainly had my fair share of hold-downs underwater, close calls with rocks, kisses from coral, bruises from boards and fins and time in rip currents, but thankfully nothing too serious.

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I did surf lifesaving from a young age and I’m really thankful for the knowledge and confidence that gave me in the ocean.  

I’m excited for what’s to come this year. I’m thrilled to be the six-time national women’s champion and I’m aiming to climb the world and European ranking, with the Olympics on the horizon.

I’ve also got the World Surf League Qualifying Series at Boardmasters surf and music Festival in Newquay, Cornwall in August, for which I’m a surfing ambassador.

I definitely wouldn’t have the opportunities that I have today if it wasn’t for my sponsorship. Last year I did a boat trip for a surf magazine. I was surfing with some of the best breaks on the planet with just a few friends, cheering each other into the most perfect waves I have ever seen. For me, life doesn’t get any better than that.

How to get involved with My Odd Job

My Odd Job is a new weekly series from Metro.co.uk, published every Sunday. If you have an unusual job and want to get involved, email aimee.meade@metro.co.uk.

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