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Industry Spotlight: How to be a Pro Surfer

Most people dream of turning their hobby into a job but very few people make it a reality.

Andrew Cotton, based in Devon, grew up following surfing and is now a professional surfer. He took a few minutes out from his busy schedule to talk to Jobulo and to share some career advice on turning a passion into a career.

Tell Us About Your Career Background

I have always been infatuated with surfing from a very young age. When I left school I wanted to be a professional surfer but wasn’t good enough so the next best thing was to work for a surfboard company, called Gulfstream Surfboards in Woolacombe. I worked with them for 10 years and learned how to shape, glass and sand – basically how to make a surfboard. The job enabled me to work with my passion. I then surfed a lot with the team, we went abroad and did some travelling – it was as good as being a pro surfer and I earned a bit of money. I then wanted to train in a profession so trained to be a Plumber. I worked as a Plumber for about a year and then from about the age of 26 my professional surfing career started to take off.

When Was the First Time You Caught a Good Wave?

Hopefully I have been catching good waves since I was young! I have always had the odd shot in magazines, but I started to work with photographers and sponsors when I was about 26.

What Made You Want to Become a Surfer?

Every sport is addictive and everyone wants to make what they enjoy their job don’t they? It’s almost like a dream. I never thought it would be close to reality and I dealt with that at an early age which is why I worked in surf shops. I did anything I could do to be a part of the sport – whether it was making surfboards or working in a shop, I felt a part of it. It gave me a chance to get in there and see how it worked and my passion for it developed from there.

What Did The People Around You Think of Your Career Choice?

This is probably why I retrained as a Plumber because I don’t think people thought it was a good idea. It’s not the general direction people want you to go in because it’s never plain and simple – you never know what you are going to be earning. If I had gone on other people’s advice I wouldn’t be doing what I am doing now.

What is a Typical Work Pattern Like For You?

I surf professionally throughout the winter. I specialise in bigger wave surfing and free surfing and generating photo and video content. So I start by looking at weather patterns and where there will be good waves. I surf with a guy called Al Mennie in Ireland and we talk about where to go and who we can get to film us. Then it’s just trying to get the biggest waves possible.

What’s The Most Exciting Thing About The Job?

You never know with winters. One minute the weather patterns are rubbish and it looks like you are not going to get waves and the next it can be amazing waves and it can change the whole path of the year.

Is it as Glamorous as People May Think?

It’s not. It can be frustrating, cold and there is a lot of time spent waiting. You don’t know where you are going to be one day from the next, it’s hard to organise real life like birthdays around your schedule. But the rewards do outweigh the negatives.

What Advice Would You Give to Someone Wanting to Turn Their Passion into a Job?

Be realistic. And if you are passionate about something really go for it. It is always nice to have something to fall back on and to have a backup plan but don’t get too swayed by other people around you. If you think you can do something then do it.

What Are Your Future Aspirations?

I have never had specific goals on what I am going to do because I think you can feel like you’ve let people down if they don’t happen. My goal is to surf. To surf the winter and to get some big waves and to document it!

To keep up to date with Andrew, or Cotty as he’s known throughout the surfing community, follow him on Twitter.