How Much Do Professional Wakeboarders Make?
Wakeboarding is a relatively new watersport only breaking through the scene in the late 1980’s. With its fast emergence to being a sports lover’s dream, it’s no wonder people hone their skill enough to go professional.
If you’re considering going pro or just want to know more about the sport you love, this will be a quick and fun read for the figures!
How much do professional wakeboarders make annually? This is a difficult answer as it’s like asking how much a professional artist makes, or pro golfers, or basketball players – the answer will 100% vary based on how talented you are. For the top wakeboarders that can be nearly half a million annually.
The sport shows no signs of slowing down with over 3 million active wakeboarders and lovers of the hobby.
As with many sporting professions, the salary the pro makes will also be based on what kinds of sponsorships and commercial involvement they have. The money won’t all come from competitions, or the figure would be considerably less.
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How Much Do Professional Wakeboarders Make?
Even through a quick Google search, the answer won’t be clear as to how much a wakeboarder makes professionally because the amounts are extremely different based on the factors of skill level, popularity amongst consumers (AKA likability), sponsorships, commercials, and sheer raw talent.
Since this is a niche profession combining that of surfing and jet-skiing, the earnings vary drastically.
The average for the top athletes solely based on their competition earning will be between $50,000 and $100,000. This is for the absolute best and most talented in the industry.
For those that are lucky enough to secure sponsorships, perhaps a commercial or their face on a cereal box, they can gross up to an extra $150,000-250,000 on top of the competition earnings.
Some websites say it’s impossible to gross more than $100,000 as a wakeboarder, but it would all depend on what brand was approaching you. Exact numbers vary based on the kinds of sponsorship deals and contracts a professional wakeboarder is able to sign.
The Facts & Figures
If you’re a top athlete like Kobe Bryant in basketball, Cristiano Ronaldo in soccer, Derek Jeter in Baseball and Roger Federer in golf – You’re looking at an $8-10 million-dollar sponsorship from Nike.
Now, obviously, there aren’t any wakeboarders that are as well known by the public as any of the above names listed. But I mention it to say – it’s not impossible. These are all different sports in which the athletes are making around the same amount from the same sponsor.
It is not outside of the realm of imagination that a wakeboarder could get a $1 million contract from Nike or a water sporting brand and far surpass all their other competition.
But for now, wakeboarders are simply not making that much.
Despite the popularity of the sport which is always growing, it’s still not as large as sports like football, basketball, or golf. However, the audience is growing so it’s not absurd to say that someday soon a professional wakeboarder could break into 7-figures.
For now, the highest recorded earning Wakeboarder is making under the half million mark, even with the top energy drink sponsorships.
The breakdown in tiers is not officially on record but looks something like this:
- Board and Boating Manager for the Pro Athlete or the team - $30K
- Energy Drink Sponsorship (which many of the pros have secured for themselves) - $10K on average
- Board Sponsorship or Local Board Shop – $5K
- Minor Sponsorships for smaller brands like sunglasses or sodas - $5K
- Competition Earnings - $30K-150K Annually
Total Estimate for Top Professional Wakeboarders - $80K-200K Annually
For those lucky enough to get a better sponsorship, that’s where the figure of $350-500K comes in. But the number of wakeboarders that have that much talent are in the double digits.
The amount of $80-200K annually is what most professional wakeboarders make including sponsorships with the most well-known breaking into six-figure earnings.
It takes a lot of talent to make that much dough, and wakeboarding is not a large enough sport to demand more yet. The sport is growing, and there is plenty of time for it to reach a higher bracket of income for its top professionals.
Time will tell but if you’re good at wakeboarding, perhaps look at surfing where the maneuvers are similar, but the pay is clearly superior.
Wakeboarding Salaries Compared to Surfing
Wakeboarding is not as lucrative as say, surfing, which is easier to gain sponsors in. Surfing’s higher wages may be due to the fact that it’s more globally popular.
Well-established sources such as the ISA Surf Industry Manufacturers Association (SIMA), and Surfing Australia say that the population in love with surfing in 2019 is between 20 and 30 million.
This is nearly 10xs as large of a sport as Wakeboarding, so it is much easier to be profitable and have a variety of sponsors to choose from.
The top rates pro surfers, only around 20-40 surfers making this amount, earn between $250K and $500K. Essentially every surfer that is outside of the WCT is not earning this much money. At least not through sponsorships or other commercial means.
Again, this is a tiny fraction of athletes that have enough talent to actually warrant a brand sponsoring you as the face of their brand.
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If You’re Looking to Go Pro
Although it’s an incredibly fun way to pay your bills, don’t count on becoming rich off wakeboarding. Statistically speaking for the majority of wakeboarders, competitive wakeboarding does not provide full-time income.
Just enjoy the sport and have fun! That’s what it’s all about anyways and if sponsors begin to roll in, then you know you’re one of the rare few that deserves it.
An idea to keep in mind is that many wakeboarders that haven’t broken through to the pro’s yet supplement their income by offering private and public lessons or working for a company that supplies their gear to pay off the expenses.
If you’re the kind that likes to be out on the water, enjoying the simple things and peaceful outdoors, something tells me your cost of living is not incredibly high anyways. I may be wrong, and you’re reading this from your 30-bedroom mansion and in your free time do flips on a wakeboard, but I could be right.
If I am right - then $80K a year is an amazing amount of money to be paid for something you adore doing.
Only you will know if you’re talented enough so if you’ve read this far, it means your passionate about turning this into a lucrative side hustle.
Take your passion and dive into it even deeper. Talent is what gets you recognized, and that will come from the energy you put out.
You may need to invest in a boat or jet ski to motor you around and get many reps in before you’re where you need to be.
Keep in mind that it will be very expensive to maintain that boat and even gas fill up could be $100 a tank. Photoshoots will pay per photo once you have a sponsorship which is a great way to pay the bills.
Your main piggybank will be competitions. Focus on destroying your opponents with your undeniable talent.
If you have an extraverted personality and can showboat a bit to get yourself noticed by the crowd, this will result in more sponsorships and come full circle to be the most lucrative hobby it can possibly be for you.
Keep focused on your craft and with hard work you could be the face of Monster Energy Drink, truest acrobat of the sea, and King of all man-made waves! Enjoy the ride, and the journey will take you exactly where you’re meant to go.