Pro surfing: the lifestyle every surfer wants, the job of a lifetime... surf surf and more surf. But is 'the best job in the world' as fun as it looks? How do you become a pro surfer? Is it given to you? Are you born with it? Do you have to win comps? Create videos? Ride big waves? What are the fail safe steps to the ultimate surfing life? Harry Timson has the talent. At 18-years-old he surfs like a demon with a distinct style and bundles of flare wrapped in the aggression needed to cut it with the best – but that is just one required element of a successful career.
As with most of the guys I’ve interviewed for magicseaweed I have a personal relationship with Harry. I’ve watched him grow into the surfer he is now, from the outside looking in he always has a smile and loves what he does. But as I’ve grown to know Harry better and started to work with him as a team rider, I have seen what it takes to get to where he is. From months on the road, to endless training sessions and many a comp in bad waves with little reward he is never shy to put the work in to keep the dream alive. I have never heard him complain, or even suggest he isn’t having as much fun as it looks. With all the pressures of staying current and a constant stream of rippers all wanting to chase the same lifestyle I wanted to ask Harry how it all comes about and how he finds the life of a modern day pro surfer.
I was 3 when he took me for my first surf and in the same summer he was pushing me into clean waves. It must of been a fair few years after that when we decided to do a contest...Harry T
Ok Harry, so I want to know what it takes to be a pro surfer. Tell me where it all started for you.
It all stared a long time ago. After a couple years surfing I knew that’s what I wanted to do for the rest of my life. I just caught the surfing bug and wanted to surf all day every day. So that was the path I went down, I moved to Newquay and started doing contests around the age of 8. I started winning a couple then stepped it up and won every contest in a year apart from one. So that’s kinda when I knew this was going to be my career and then took it a lot more seriously
So where did you come from? Who took you for you first wave and first comp?
I moved from the Midlands, Leicestershire. However before then we would stay at Watergate Bay in the caravan park and any chance we had like weekends or school holidays we would drive the six hours to the sea. All summer my dad would lifeguard down at Watergate so that is where I got into surfing. I was 3 when he took me for my first surf and in the same summer he was pushing me into clean waves. It must of been a fair few years after that when we decided to do a contest – still down at Watergate – it was the English Nationals and I remember losing but still thought doing the contest was so cool and wanted to do every single one after that.
Would you say it a was a natural progression to enter the comps, or was it a decision made based on your obvious talents early on in your surfing life?
It just seemed like the next step-up, it was just something different on the weekend then after doing well in one it made me want to win then I found the competitive person inside and haven't stopped doing them.
So after some successes in the junior comps around the UK, where do you go from there? What would you say was the next chapter?
It was time to step up another level and take it to Europe, you always hear rumours about how hard the French kids rip and things like that – so it was then when we thought to be the best you have to surf against the best and so that’s when we started going to France for the summers and doing the ASP Pro Junior contests.
How have you fared in the Euro comps then? Have you found it a hard step-up?
It’s a huge step-up and the contests are far from easy, they are so different from UK comps it makes you realise that there are 100s of kids who want it just as badly as you and all of them are so dedicated you really have to up your game for them.
So what do you do to separate yourself from the pack? It’s no secret you have some great sponsors to back you on your journey, what do you think sets you apart from others to be seen as a good ambassador for these brands? Is it just about surfing talent?
I think surfing talent plays a big part but not as much as the social media side of things.Harry T
I think surfing talent plays a big part but not as much as the social media side of things. I mean you could be one of the best surfers in the world but if you don't represent brands well, or you have bad a attitude towards things, or just a bad personality, no-one is going to want you on their team and it’s hard to get to the high places without the backing. I think what sets me aside would have the be social media, always putting up pictures and keeping people informed about what’s going on and also travelling to places and making video clips. A lot of people I know have been away over the winter and haven't made clips. So they have benefited from it in their surfing, but they have no proof – you go away training in perfect waves for the contest season and come back and realise almost every contest down in Europe is held in poor waves so how do you demonstrate your surfing? I’m lucky to have my dad filming me and shooting every session, because without him I wouldn't be able to keep my social media side of things going and it seems that could be one of the paths I go down
your dad plays a big part in your career as a coach and a filmer/photographer. do you guys work on stuff together or do you just go surf, and he records the surf?
We’re always working on stuff, especially training! Both physical and surf technique. Sometimes we do a bit of both, and then if we have been training hard for a while we will agree that we will just have a fun session as a change. A lot of the time this is when we get the best stuff because you’re just having fun and not worrying about anything too much. You wouldn't be able to have all that fun if you didn't take it seriously initially, it would almost be too relaxing [laughs].
I guess it is just like any job in regards to how seriously you take it... just the funnest job in the world. You have to train hard to get the surfing tuned-in, work hard on bettering your repertoire and technique, you gotta represent in the comps, nationally and internationally whilst maintaining a stream of social media so people can follow what you’re doing and you can represent your sponsors positively (in a large nut shell). It must take a huge chunk of your life up… how do you find the lifestyle? Does the pressure to stay relevant ever get to you?
Yeah it is definitely one of the best jobs in the world, I can't argue with that and it takes up a whole chunk of my life all day every day. However it’s what I love doing and cant really imagine a life without surfing or anything to do with the sea, there’s not a time where I can remember the pressure ever being too much. Sometimes it can be stressful like if you have to surf a contest in bad waves, or you’er on a trip trying to get clips and it’s flat. But all-in-all it’s not too bad [laughs]. I think also I've been brought up in the beach lifestyle which helps – my older brother and dad have been lifeguarding for years and before that they both worked in a surf school so I think it must be in my blood.
What do you want out of surfing Hazza?
Pretty much live the dream whether it's through contests or freesurfing! I'm always gonna love surfing and being in the ocean so as long as I'm doing that I'll be happy!
Sounds like you’re in a great place bud, it shows in your recent surfing footage that’s for sure, so great to see a UK grom really cutting it on a world stage and I look forward to following your career as it develops. Can you introduce your new clip for us: where, why, what etc. Also if you have any shoutouts now is the time.
Yeah sure! Here’s my new clip True Colours, my last Indo edit was called Black and White and the reason we chose the name True Colours this year is because the waves were terrible for all the contests. We thought when you surf in good waves you can surf to your best allowing your true colours to show through. It was filmed in Sumbawa surfing a fair few different waves. Thanks a lot to all my sponsors for supporting me and a extra big thanks to Luke Hart and the boys up at the factory.
Interview by Luke Hart, Head Shaper at Fourth Surfboards.