Surfing: when should a pro surfer hang their leash? | Photo: Smith/Red Bull

The career of professional athletes is relatively short, especially compared with those who have "regular" nine-to-six jobs. But what happens in surfing?

On average, a surfer starts his or her professional career between 14 and 18 years of age and hangs the leash around 35.

Nevertheless, we've athletes reaching their peak of performance around 35 or 40.

In the future, as we've seen with Kelly Slater and Mike Stewart, healthy food and drink habits and adequate fitness and training plans will likely extend pro surfing careers to the age of 50.

That said, in the near future, the average career length of a Championship Tour (CT) and Qualifying Series (QS) surfer will be around 30 years.

So when should a surfer consider retirement? How do you know it's time to call it quits? How should surfers prepare for life after heats, jerseys, and wave scores?

The decision is never easy, and it is rarely made from one day to the next. In sports, retirement is a process that begins with a personal reflection and ends up with a plan.

Surfers need to prepare for life after competition.

Not only because they will lose a source of income but also because they must adapt their mindset and the lives of those who surround them to the new paradigm.

In many cases, the spotlight, the adrenaline, the media inquiries, the adoration from the fans, the sponsors, and the constant travel will be deeply missed.

Tiago Pires: he decided to retire in 2015 after a long fight against injuries | Photo: Red Bull

One day, you're active, and the next day, you're sitting on a couch, reliving your heydays and fondest memories. And that's not healthy for your inner self.

Divorces, bankruptcy, depression, and problems with drug and alcohol abuse are quite common in retired athletes - the challenge is to find a place where you feel comfortable and useful.

Retirement is part of a career, and surfers should be able to deal with it naturally and spontaneously. Because it is not the end of the world, and they will continue to surf. Who knows, even better?

As Ben Okri once said: "Our future is greater than our past."

Is it a tough decision to make? Yes, it is. Should it be an irreversible step? Definitely. Is there a normal retirement age? No, you can be young or old. Will you miss a lot of things? Yes, but you won't miss many others.

The End is Nigh

Here are five clues that should make you think about retirement:

  1. Injuries: Recurrent physical issues such as back pain, shoulder strain, ankle sprain, and knee disorders may force you to stop surfing at a professional level;
  2. Fun Factor: If you feel you're not having fun in the waves, and your competitive enthusiasm is fading away, then surfing as a career could be at stake;
  3. Results: If you can't get a good result because your opponents are too strong or if you simply can't cope with stressful and intense heats;
  4. Family: When your family grows, your wife or husband needs you, and children require a mother and a father, maybe it's time to make hard choices;
  5. Age: If you simply feel you're too old for competitive surfing and can't stand paddle battles for waves and position in the lineup, it's time to throw the towel and be happy;

Discover how to become a lifelong surfer.

Top Stories

We can't choose our height, and 80 percent of it is genetic. But if you're into surfing, taller and shorter surfers feel noticeable differences in getting acquainted with boards, paddling for, and riding a wave.

Cole Houshmand and Caitlin Simmers have claimed the 2024 Rip Curl Pro Bells Beach.

At 32, Laura Enever is slowly building a name in women's big wave surfing. And to make her vlogger debut on YouTube, the Australian chose Cloudbreak.

Ryan Crosby is the new chief executive officer (CEO) of the World Surf League (WSL).