It’s a harsh and irrefutable reality that is not often discussed in the surf media, but in this country, the ability to become a pro surfer has been limited to those whose parents can afford it. Competition entry fees, coaching and travel to competitions (both ISA & WSL) abroad are all essential and costly steps on the ladder of any aspiring pro surfer and since sponsorship money has decreased dramatically in the last few years, these costs have often fallen on the heads of the surfers themselves and their parents. ‘Break out the violins’ may be many people’s default reaction – however what many don’t understand is making the pathway to becoming a professional surfer more accessible, particularly in poorer areas, could have far reaching and boundlessly positive social repercussions.
Indeed we are quick to acknowledge the transformative powers of surfing, both for individuals and communities in poorer places abroad, so why not bring this mindset closer to home. The positives of making surfing, both as an all consuming hobby and a possible career, available to a wider range of young people are plain to see- it’s good for their health, self-esteem, it helps forge a care and understanding for the natural environment and most importantly cures an ailment that so often leads kids astray- boredom. And what gives this particular significance here at home is the fact that places where you can surf are some of the most deprived in the country – indeed a recent study found Cornwall, West Wales and Durham and Tees valley to be the three poorest areas in the UK respectively.
So where does Surfing GB’s latest announcement come into all of this? Well, it’s long been understood that one of the main ways’s this problem could be solved is the introduction of public money into the sport, as has been done in many countries around the world, including Australia & France. Such an injection would allow greater access and participation as well as provide a proper independent funded coaching programme, making becoming a top level surfer a realistic aspiration, no matter what your economic background.
Previously surfing has been unable to access any public Sport England money as its fragmented bureaucratic structures have been unable to reach an agreement as to who exactly should receive ‘National Governing Body’ status (the allocation of which is the first step on the ladder for applying for funding). But that’s all about to change, as of this morning Surfing GB & The English Surf Federation have announced they plan to merge meaning that, once complete, they will receive NGB status and the door will be open for applications for funding to be made.
Of course this is just the first hurdle and the start of a long and complex process, with Surfing GB estimating that the funding application process should be able to begin around Spring 2017, and there are of course no guarantee’s of funding at the end, however we believe it’s very much a step in the right direction and would like to congratulate Surfing GB & ESF on all the work they’ve been doing behind the scenes to make this happen.
You can read more about the announcement in the official press release here.