One of Hawai‘i’s greatest power surfers and top form competitors is hanging up the jersey, looking to focus on other areas in his life. Still one of the stand out performers at any line up on the planet – and particularly in ‘waves of consequence’ – 42-year old Pancho Sullivan enters this year’s HIC Pro looking to qualify for his final Vans Triple Crown Series, and then retire from competitive surfing.
“I’ve come to a place in my life where work and family commitments have become my priority,” says Sullivan. “And I feel like it’s time to pass the torch to the next generation. I get to officially paddle out in the HIC Pro and leave it out in the water and know that this is the last time I surf in this event.”
Sullivan realizes the focus and commitment required to perform at that high level, and talks about the pressure that’s put on professional surfers.
“Being a professional surfer takes a lot of dedication and a lot of planning. It’s an emotional rollercoaster ride. You train for these events to get your equipment in order, you eat the right food, there is so much that you put into it and if you’re not focused 100% you’re going to not have the confidence or be second guessing yourself during heats. Having a full time job and a family, it is hard to commit to that level of training and sort of be on call all the time. The events are based around Mother Nature and the surf that’s on offer. I have work
Freesurf sat down for an interview with Pancho to talk about his past, future and what this current winter season is looking like.
What are some of your top highlights competing or free surfing?
You know, thinking over the course of my career some of my most memorable experiences were on surf trips with just a handful of people. Those experiences allowed me to really absorb the cultures and languages and friendships I made over the years.
Competitively I always aspired to win a Triple Crown. Unfortunately that never came to fruition for me, but I was fortunate to have success on the North Shore and I won at Sunset, Pipe and Haleiwa. Winning multiple times out at Sunset is something I am really proud of because that is my home break. And getting a chance to compete against Kelly Slater in the Faith Riding Pro and surf against obviously the best surfer of all time in really good waves, and win over Kelly was a highlight. Just being in the event is such an honor. On any given day there are 50 other people in the water and to be out there with just three other guys, it’s like pinch me.
So professional surfing is in fact a dream job?
I think that being a professional surfer people have the perception that there is not much work involved and it’s really easy. But just the cost factor of getting to these events, you prepare for them, you
What are you expecting for this winter season?
I am really excited. I know at this point there will be some emotions. I’ve spent the better part of my life competing in the Triple Crown and it was something I was so focused on growing up. And being
Any advice for the next generation of competitive surfers?
I would say to the next generation of competitive surfers just to have fun with it. In surfing you lose a lot more than you win, but it’s a blessing to have found something that you are so passionate about and that you enjoy so much. If you can keep that as the reason why you do it, and don’t let the results dictate how much fun you have, then I think you will be a success no matter what.