Greg Long’s Sound Advice On Losing His Main Sponsor
Real talk post Billabong departure.
It’s no secret the industry’s tough, fickle and surfers are in a constant fight for relevancy. But, let’s be clear, this is no sob story. Greg Long and Billabong, after a seven year relationship and back and forth negotiation, have split up. “Based off our discussions it was very apparent that we had both evolved into a place where maintaining a relationship was no long the best thing for either of us,” Greg tells Stab. “I have zero resentment. The hardest part for me was thinking about all the amazing friendships I had established with individuals within the company. Naturally, my heart was a little heavy at the thought of no longer working alongside those people. To be honest, I’m excited to have a clean slate at the moment.”
“I still remember the day I got a voice message from Steve Clark telling me he wanted me to come into the office to talk a sponsorship possibility,” Greg continues. “I had been without a sponsor for three years, living in my van to save money and traveling just off the prize money I was winning in big wave events and the XXL awards. At the time of his call, I had literally decided I’d reached the end of my run chasing big waves and needed to figure out the next chapter of my life.”
Where there’s room to wiggle, you’ll find Mr Long. Here he is at his fav beach break in Oaxaca. Photo: Edwin Morales
On any team there’s a talent hierarchy. On Hurley, for example, John Florence will hold the reins for the next five years. With O’Neill, Jordy Smith’s about to enter his second term, and during winter on the North Shore, he gets the top room while the rest of the team scraps for beds–as does Bruce Irons in the RVCA house. And unfortunately for Mr Long, “most of the endemic companies don’t have the desire to push and market big wave surfing.”
Greg and Shane Dorian have been long time teammates and are two of the most influential big wave gentlemen active today. If big wave surfing was a general election, Greg would be Shane’s running mate. But, he doesn’t think they made a choice between him and Doz, “but if for some reason they did…they damn well should have gone with Shane,” he laughs. “He’s unquestionably the best big wave surfer in the world!”
Mr Long’s the most decorated XXL Awards winner of all-time and has played an integral role in bringing big wave surfing to the world stage. At 32, he feels he’s nowhere near past his prime, and we’re damn inclined to agree. “Big wave surfing is very different to the performance surfing you see from world tour athletes,” he says. “Riding big waves is a timeless act, in which you perpetually improve the longer you do it. Seeing guys like Twiggy (Grant Baker) and Shane, who are in their early 40’s and are still two of the best big wave surfers in the world leads me to believe that if I look after myself physically, and maintain personal desire, I still have a good ten years of riding big waves at the highest level if I want to.”
Into the blue mouth of Pe’ahi. Photo: Tom Servais
“The reality is, there are only a few individuals out there who will make enough money surfing to retire,” he says. Greg knows, as well as any, the tribulations of making it as a surfer. Greg’s scrapped from a NSSA grom, winning the National Open Men’s Title in 2001 to later finding his passion waves in excess of three stories. He has mantels worth of big wave accolades, one of the most notable being the winner of the 2009 Quiksilver Eddie Aikau. But, he’s also aware of life beyond the realm of surf and stays busy writing, speaking motivationally, working with environmental groups and taking advanced medical courses. “During the off months of the Big Wave Tour, I am regularly giving talks at different events, schools and universities,” he says. “I’m currently working on a few different big wave and adventure travel documentaries. I’m also doing work for a number of environmental groups including, Parley for the Oceans, The San Onofre Foundation, Save the Waves, Sustainable Surf and The Surf Rider Foundation.”
No loss of sponsor could keep Greg from shooting tunnels at Puerto. He’s one of the best ever out there. Photo: Edwin Morales
“If I could give any advice to younger surfers out there pursuing a career in surfing,” he says. “By all means, follow your heart and passion but along the way don’t ever stop learning and educating yourself about all that is happening in the world around you. I can’t count how many “professional surfers” I have seen in the later, and early parts of their career get dropped by their sponsor and end up in a difficult place because they never took the time to cultivate any life skills or develop a deeper understanding about anything other than just surfing waves. As the saying goes…life without education is like a building without foundation. It doesn’t have to be formal, just make an effort to continually learn and challenge yourself beyond riding waves. Life will prove more colourful, interesting and enjoyable if you do.”
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