What does it take to work in the surf industry? Many people who surf or like action sports have dreamt of having an industry job but aren’t sure about the first steps to cross the threshold into it. Someone who aspires and actually attempts to get into the surf industry will quickly find out that the industry is notorious for being exclusive. Don’t get discouraged though.
Working for brands that promote the fun and carefree lifestyle of surfers sets up an air of casualty that is hard to find in other industries. Working at Surfline has conditioned me to what I believe is the most casual office culture in the work world. It is more common to see someone running through the Surfline office in a dripping wet wetsuit than a button up shirt. Friday afternoons often see us cracking beers and watching the sunset from our ocean front office balcony. All fun and games? I think not. We all value our company and its success, and will do just about anything to ensure we have the privilege to work there.
So what exactly can you do to get in or maintain your place in the surf world? To help inspire you, here are some tips from some industry players….
MADISON OLSON (me), Surf Project Coordinator at Surfline
DO: Prove your value through your work and experience. Take risks and try jobs that may not be your dream job, because any experience will build your skill set and help you land more jobs. I have worked in just about every department at Surfline doing tasks from filing to building new surf spots in our system and hiring reporters for those new spots. Some jobs are not every exciting but the foundation of skills and the network of people I have met doing them are invaluable. Be loyal to the company you work for. This month is my 8th year at Surfline- I can’t even believe it! My job has become much more than a job to me. Do think of yourself as a contributor to the greater good of the company, instead of just focusing on the benefits you will reap from the company. By showing loyalty, dedication, and working on overdrive, I have built a resume that shows much more than a list of jobs- it is more like a story of the skills, experiences, and friendships within the industry that I have acquired over the past few years.
DON’T: Don’t rely on networking. No one likes a brown noser who only talks to the cool kids of the industry. Don’t go overboard with sucking up to industry heads. Don’t be greedy and ask for more (a raise, benefits, hook-ups, etc.) unless you can prove your worth or make a trade for said hook-ups. Bragging will bring you down faster than a bad wipeout at Mavericks. Be humble and don’t take anything for granted.
JONNO WELLS, CEO at Surfline
DO: Research and ask about the company culture any way you can. Cultures vary widely in the surf industry and some cultures may not be what they appear to be in their marketing materials.
http://www.malakye.com/ Has some good resources and job postings to get oriented.
Do some research and ask lots of questions about what the company needs help with, then present how your skills and experience help the company meet its goals.
Only after you have established that you know what is needed and have the skills to help, then discuss how your passion for surfing will help you better understand customers and work better with the team.
It is a big plus that you are passionate about surfing, but you need to nail the skills/experience required to do the job first. (Unless you are looking to be a team rider!)
If you are just starting out, apply the above steps toward seeking internship opportunities to build your skills and experience.
DON’T: Don’t lead with how much you love surfing and offer to do any job to get into the industry. Don’t say you want to join the company so you can spend more time in the water.
· Be authentic; surfers and ocean enthusiasts are real people.
· Be proud but humble; the Industry needs great people who don’t need to claim to feel worthy.
· Pursue roles that match your experience; not just any role to get into the Industry.
· Work hard; it takes a lot of effort to make it.
· Share your passion for the beach, ocean and sport; that’s what the Industry is all about.
· Try and act cool to fit in; everyone will know you’re doing it.
· Slack off because it’s so low key and culturally cool; Industry people put in the time and effort.
· Miss deadlines; trust and keeping commitments is essential in a flexible low-management environment.
· Wait for things to do; find things the company needs and you are good at, and just go do them.
· Expect to surf every time it’s good; sometimes you have to work and that’s how it is.
GEM, Art Director at Surfline
DO: Try something new. Why repeat that status quo? Things may not work exactly the way you want (honestly, sometimes it’s a disaster) but problem solving is really the cornerstone of design, plus you learn a hell of a lot about yourself and your peers.
DON’T: Forget to smile. Sometimes your action item list is absurd and your inbox is maxed out but at the end of the day my job is to get people stoked on surfing through design…trust me, I’ve had worse jobs. haha
Check out all of Gem’s design work on here website here: eyelovegem.com
GRETCHEN WEGRICH, Conversation Manager (Social Media) at Surfline
DO: Do be willing to learn the ropes of your profession outside of the surf industry. I started out doing social media for a financial company while taking on small surf writing projects whenever I had the chance and maintaining a surf-inspired blog. Take advantage of any connections you might have in the surf industry —even if they don’t have a job for you, set up a meeting with them or shadow them at work one day. It’s an amazing opportunity to network and meet the people who have the job you want, and the next time a brand is hiring, they might remember you! Some of the best advice I ever received was from Aaron Carrera, who manages social media at Grind Media. He basically said, “A surf company is going to be much more impressed by your out-of-industry work experience and proven work ethic than by the fact that you lived at home with your parents and worked in a restaurant while waiting for your dream job to come along.” It sounds harsh, but it’s true! Do go to surf events, movie premiers and parties —you never know who you might meet there! And always start small, stay humble and follow your passions.
DON’T: Don’t get discouraged if you get passed up for your dream job! One of the hardest lessons I learned was accepting that even though I KNEW I was the perfect candidate for a job, the brand that was hiring was looking at my resume and meager surf industry experience and wasn’t impressed. Don’t get caught in the mentality of “I can’t get hired because I don’t have any experience, but I’ll never get experience if I don’t get hired!” It can be frustrating, but it’s also very true —you aren’t going to land your dream job without experience. If you can afford to do an internship or two, that can be a great place to start. Otherwise, find a job outside of the surf industry and start a side project —it can be a photo blog, a weekly surf video you make, a clothing brand you design…follow your passion and create a portfolio of surf-inspired work that shows what you are capable of. Don’t stop networking and letting everyone know that you want a job in the surf industry. When a job comes along that you know you are perfect for, be bold and let it be known that you REALLY want it. Don’t give up —persistence is a HUGE factor in getting hired. Good luck!
DON’T: Try not to get too comfortable. The industry is very laid back and it’s easy to get caught up in that…but remember to be professional.
DON’T: Ride only tri-fin short boards.
KELLI WOO, Men’s Assistant Designer at RVCA
DO: Work hard. Even though this industry seems to have casual Friday every day of the week and knows almost too well how to throw a party, your performance in the office definitely does matter. Ultimately, you have to do the job you are hired to do and get it done right before you can reap the benefits.
DON’T Burn bridges. Everyone knows everyone somehow from somewhere, and a little bit of beef goes a long way. Lots of people move between companies in this industry and you don’t want any drama tagged to your name.
BOWEN OTA, Co-Owner A-Frame Photo
DO: Network and intern to get your foot in the door. Volunteer at a non-profit that the surf industry supports. You’ll be rewarded with the satisfaction of helping others while building relationships and contacts that may help you in the future. If you’re looking for a creative position, build a portfolio that you can share online.
DON’T: Get caught with embarrassing or incriminating photos on your social media sites. Recruiters and human resources check those when searching for potential employees, so clean up your Facebook, Instagram and Twitter before submitting your resume! Also, don’t expect to get paid big money….you’re doing this for the love of the lifestyle and not necessarily a huge paycheck.
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KYLIE YOSHIDA, Stylist at SWELL
DO: under promise and over deliver, always.
DON’T: Slack off, ever.
WHAT I’D WEAR TO AN INTERVIEW: Stone Cold Fox Bell Sleeve Dress (Pictured at left: bell bottoms by Novella Royale)
Check out more posts from the #SeaMade Series
Follow Madison on Instagram at @mmadisonn