I lost my main sponsor not long after getting knocked off the World Tour in 2010. That wasn’t easy, but I’m really proud of how I handled it. For a while there, I literally had almost no money. I was still surfing all the time, but I had to find other ways to pay the bills. I got a job as a valet at a hotel in Waikiki, but I still wasn’t ready to give up on surfing as a career just because I got knocked off the Tour and lost my sponsors. I had a few months of dental insurance left, so I fixed up my teeth and lost a bunch of weight. It sounds ridiculous, but I was doing everything I could to be more marketable. I ended up getting fired from my valet job for a few little accidents I had at work, but then things started to go my way again. Brian Toth flew me out to Puerto Rico for a comp with some extra miles he had. I won the comp and $11,000, which I stretched out to the last dime. I was doing everything I could to get back in the game. That wasn’t going to be the end of it for me. I just kept plugging away trying to get a deal going on with someone. And then it happened. I ended up getting back on the Rip Curl team again and couldn’t be happier. I wasn’t pulling my weight before, but now, I’m doing everything I can. I’m working and I’m doing what I love. It feels good. Really good.
Now that I’ve been on the other side of it, I give 100 percent for my sponsors. I’m picking groms up from the airport, prepping them for heats, working on representing all my sponsors the best I possibly can. It feels like a fresh start. I’m so glad I didn’t just give up and say “maybe professional surfing wasn’t for me.” I’m proud of myself for working hard to make it happen. In the end, I think it made me a man. That sounds weird, but I look back on when I was younger, and I was acting like a boy. But being at the top, then falling, and then being able to get back up again, I think that made me a man. Those were really important life lessons to learn and I’m glad they happened.