Tom Butler: "I'm burnt out from trying to monetize my sport"

October 26, 2020 | Surfing
Tom Butler: the British surfer is not happy with the way the World Surf League supports athletes | Photo: Riancho/WSL

Tom Butler announced he is taking a break from his professional big wave surfing career with criticism over the World Surf League's behavior with athletes.

He is one of the greatest British big wave riders of all time and has never stopped chasing big winter swells.

On December 14, 2018, Butler rode one of the biggest waves ever at Praia do Norte, in Nazaré, Portugal, with several independent sources stating it could have been a 100-foot giant.

But the surfer from Newquay is frustrated and disappointed with big wave surfing's status quo.

"I'm kind of burnt out from trying to monetize my sport," expressed Butler.

The British swell hunter announced he declined an invitation to compete at the 2020/2021 Nazaré event.

"Not that many big wave surfers are getting close to the level of financial backing needed to keep the sport safe," adds Tom Butler.

"Commercializing myself as an athlete took all the fun out of what I was doing, and I spent more time behind a laptop screen than actually surfing."

No Appearance Fees

Butler says that the sacrifices and investments needed to compete at the highest level in this life-threatening discipline don't pay off.

The 31-year-old surfer notes that "some wild calls are made just because they're the right decision in a business sense at the expense of the athletes."

Tom Butler also reveals that in last year's Nazaré Challenge, organizers "pulled the wool over the athletes' eyes."

They said: 'this is year zero. Let's work together and build this event into something huge and profitable for all involved.' But then had Red Bull as a headline sponsor and kept it quiet until the competition day."

The British big wave charger adds that "collecting my rash vest from a Red Bull counter but not being paid an appearance fee that reflects the company's financial status doesn't sit right with me when there is so much on the line."

"And when you have the contest director apologize to all surfers after the event saying 'sorry for the way the webcast and post-event coverage came out,' you know you're in a s---ty political event."

Tom Butler says he is happy with his career achievements and will now focus on his young son and family.

He plans to simplify his life, strip back the pressure of being ready to perform in big waves, and work on projects closer to home.

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