A Look At The Inconsistencies In Professional Surfers' Salaries - Stab Mag
"Real quick, tell me how much you make." Photo: Cait Miers/WSL

A Look At The Inconsistencies In Professional Surfers’ Salaries

Three takeaways from the 2021 Stab Rich List.

Words by Jack Mutschler

If I learned one thing from the 2021 Stab Rich List, it is that I am poor—something that should have already been apparent to me through my apartment, clothes, car, face, posture, former job at Jimmy John’s, and subsistence on processed meats. 

But if learned a second thing, it is that there are peculiar differences in how much pro surfers get paid. 

Other than a one-of-a-kind Kai Lenny and a retired Mick Fanning, the 2021 Stab Rich List consists solely of current CT competitors. Nothing unordinary, because nothing is more marketable than a winner, and the WSL is where winning happens. Most free surfers live on a separate list, only about $950,000 away from their competitive counterparts.

However, what is shocking about CT surfers’ pay stubs is how much inconsistency there is. Is the word “shocking” an over-sell? Maybe. But even though the Rich List consists mostly of CT surfers, it looks nothing like the year-end WSL rankings. The fact that the current world champion has seven surfers above him further proves that there are some mysteries here. Let’s investigate three of them:

High performance = high pay. Photo: Matt Dunbar/WSL

One name that stuck out to me was Griffin Colapinto who, at only 22 years old, earned himself an impressive 9th place on the list. Griffin’s a great surfer, and his manager is a great negotiator, which helps explain why he is the highest-paid athlete on the Billabong roster. I love Griff, but woulda never guessed that.

“Retirement” has been nothing like a stage exit for Mick Fanning. Photo: Cait Miers/WSL

Despite retiring in 2018, Mick Fanning has still managed to keep one of most impressive deals in surfing with Rip Curl, and his success in the world of pro model fins is unmatched. He also gets a boost from a few (relatively) smaller contracts with cooler companies, flip flops, and energy drinks. Usually, retirement creates a less marketable surfer, but when you’re as likable and talented as Mick, you draft your own contracts.

Not too many stickers there for a man making seven figures. Photo: Ryan Miller

One of the 2020’s most noteworthy moves was made by Mr. John John Florence. After leaving Hurley, the whole world stopped and wondered what was next for the man whom many consider the world’s greatest surfer. Then came the birth of Florence Marine X, and the deal he strung together is more clever than you’d imagine—it explains how he still pulls over a million dollars a year.

I could go on. But if you want the full breakdown from Stab’s top floor you’ll have to click here.


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