Working the waves – surf friendly jobs under the spotlight

by Linda Nordling in Superwomen | No Comments »

For many surfers Windguru plays an important role when planning the work week. Beachwatch webcams and surf forecast websites like Wavescape are checked at least twice a day. The constant feeling to miss out on a good day of surfing can be frustrating. Some of us have managed to slip into jobs flexible enough to sneak off for quick surfs while others are working. We will look at some of the jobs of fellow Surfsisters and see if we can learn something.


So you may not be the next big Roxy prospect. But that doesn’t mean you can’t get a job that will help you catch some waves. After discovering surfing in Spain, journalist and surfing addict Anna Petherick went freelance and moved to rocky shores of Devon, one of the most consistent surf spots on the British Isles. Here she tells Surfsisters how she managed to mix waves and work.


Surfsisters: How did you start surfing?

Anna: I actually haven’t surfed for all that long. I worked in Argentina and Uruguay as the Economist’s correspondent in those countries. Then, when I finished that job – which unfortunately didn’t feature any surfing – I spent some time near Cadiz in southern Spain. It’s stunningly beautiful there, with lots of orange trees and Moorish architecture, and is also pretty cheap to live, so it seemed like the perfect spot to figure out whether I could make freelancing work. And, of course, surfing and kite surfing feature heavily along the Costa de la Luz – the part of Spain’s Atlantic coast that runs from the border with Portugal, to Tarifa, the most southerly tip of the Spanish mainland.

Surfing and work

Midweek surf session

Surfsisters: And how is freelancing treating you?

Anna: My method has been to place myself near reliable wifi and waves, and to then plan Skype interviews and writing time as best I can around the swell. I’ve spent the past few months in north Devon in the UK. It’s an empty and wild landscape of 5-mile sandy beaches that are broken up with craggy headlands and patches of moorland. Outside of the summer season, the locals – plumbers, removal men, pub owners – organise their lives around the surfing conditions, so there’s a natural ebb and flow to the pace of the life, which is dictated by the elements. I quite like that after living in big cities.

Surfing and work

Putsborough beach

Surfsisters: Surfing the UK in winter must be amazing! Do you have gloves and a hood?

Anna: YES! I didn’t like the idea of a hood at the start, but it’s absolutely essential when every wave can give you an ice cream headache. My hood is pink on the inside, so when it’s drying inside out and the floppy bit that tucks into the wetsuit is left dangling, it looks a lot like a cartoon jellyfish. Oh, and another cartoon side of hoods and gloves is that, from a distance, surfers look like badly drawn stickmen.

Surfing and work | My office

My office. The little dot on the wave is a surfer.

Surfsisters: What is your bag? Mellow beach breaks? What do you surf?

Anna: North Devon has some tremendous long boarder breaks, like Saunton Sands, where you can ride in for 30 seconds or so (although it feels like minutes!). So I spend a lot of time long boarding. You’d have to paddle like mad to catch those waves on a 6ft board, and I’m frankly just too lazy. I’ve got an 8ft mini mal made by a local shaper called Jools. That’s my all-conditions option.

Surf rolling in

The swell rolling into 5-miles-long Saunton Sands

Surfsisters: Sounds like a sweet deal you have there. So how do you go about working as a freelance journalist?

Anna: I wouldn’t jump into a freelance career unless you either have a CV that’s pretty full of journalistic experience (to help you get new jobs), or unless you have a regular stringer gig already set up. If you don’t have one or both of those things, your better option is to work on establishing yourself a bit before going freelance. The next step is to specialise in a subject that doesn’t require you to be on call 24/7, or close to a city centre. I have a monthly column (regular gig, tick!) about economics and climate change (location-independent subject, tick!) that I think of as my rent and bills cash cow.

Surfsisters: Have you ever got into trouble for trying to combine surfing with work?

Anna: I haven’t had any major dramas, but that is probably because I’m very strict with myself about putting work first. My own poor planning has occasionally had me miserably strapped to desk on sunny Sunday afternoons, watching others enjoy surfing perfect, glassy, 3ft waves. That’s a horrible feeling.

Surfing and work

Where I hang up my wetsuit to dry

Surfsisters: What is your dream destination for surfing, and do you think work could help you get there?

Anna: One day I’d love to go to Hawaii, but at the moment I’m nurturing the fantasy of renting a beach hut in Barbados for a few months. And I’m sure I could come up with some story ideas to take me there! I’m looking for a few others to share the hut with me, if anyone’s interested…

Surfsisters: We love surfing adventures. So we might take you up on that!