Life On Tour
Lessons from a Life on Tour: What the Pros Know That You Should
Mick Fanning at Hurley Pro Trestles
Everyone wants to pick the minds of professional surfers and get a glimpse of what they
had to overcome to be able to compete in the World Surf League. For most avid surf
fans, surf films and truncated online interviews are as close as they can get to learning
about the lives of these living legends. But a lucky group in Siargao Island got to listen
to Brad Gerlach talk about his journey to the big leagues over dinner at the Kudo Surf
Shop inside Greenhouse Resort.
Brad Gerlach giving the Life On Tour talk at Greenhouse Resort, Siargao Island
Gerlach, world-ranked #2 in 1991 and a renowned tow-in big wave rider, began surfing
when he was 10 years old; at 51 today, he continues to surf and provide coaching for
aspiring surf athletes. We rounded up some of his most valuable advice to surfers, both
young and old, whether they want to climb the ranks of the Philippine Surfing
Championship Tour (PSCT) or just want to improve their surfing in their own
If you’ve ever wanted to know what goes on in the mind of a pro, here’s your chance.
1) “You’ve got to make your own luck.”
Brad recalls how he made people laugh so they’d like him enough to bring to the
beach with them. Coming from a broken family, he didn’t have much financial
support for his surfing goals. However, he was determined to make it. He
repaired surfboards and provided good vibes to everyone he met on the beach.
Soon, someone took notice of his good-natured attitude and amazing surf skills
that he was eventually given his own surfboard.
“You’ve got to make your own luck,” he repeats. He knows that there are other
surfers on the WSL tour who come from less fortunate backgrounds. He makes
mention of one guy who would walk 8 miles to the beach just to surf, and when
he was done, he would walk the entire 8 miles back home. That man was
Adriano de Souza, who later won the world title in 2015.
2) “It’s not just about talent—it’s about desire.”
Undeniably, there are a lot of talented surfers all over the world. How do you
stand out when everyone can do the same airs and turns?
“You’ve got to want it more than anybody else,” says Gerlach. Just when you
think you want it bad enough, you’ll see someone who might just want it more.
“I’d tell my students you can’t be on tour if you’re sleeping in. Sleep in only after
you’ve won the tour!” He brings his students to the beach at 4:30 in the morning,
just before the sun rises, and guess who’s already there, done with their
stretching. Jordy Smith and John Florence.
“It’s not just about talent. It’s about the desire.” If you have that fire burning in
you, nurture it and let it grow. One day, it will make all of the difference.
John John Florence heading out to his heat at Trestles
3) “Get rid of mental blocks.”
Despite the connectivity that cellphones bring, Brad isn’t all that impressed.
“Cellphones are one of the biggest distractions in modern times.” Today, it’s so
easy to watch videos and see what everyone else is doing and you can get
caught up in all of that. Instead of focusing on your own game, you get fooled into
thinking that you have to beat whatever the other guy or girl just posted.
It’s all about learning real focus. There are many mental blocks that could hinder
your growth as a surfer and the key is to realize that they are exactly just
that—mental blocks. You can get rid of them whenever you want.
Another mental block is losing. Nobody likes to lose and it’s okay to get pissed
off. But you can’t let your losses take over—you can’t stay pissed forever.
Instead, relax, and don’t bring the frustration with you the next time you go out for
“If I can go back and coach my younger self, I’d tell him to focus on myself.” Brad
asserts that there was no place for ego and arrogance in professional surfing. “I
lost a lot because I felt like I was better than other people. You got to clean that
4) “Your body is your vehicle.”
The one thing that’s more important than your surfboard when you’re out there is
your body. This is why you’ve got to take good care of your body. Don’t be
drinking too much or sleeping too little. “Surfing is a sport that is perishable,” he
reminds the crowd. “You can be great at it when you’re young but you can lose it
when you don’t take care of your body.”
When asked if Filipinos had a natural disadvantage for being smaller, Brad was
quick to disagree.
“You can’t change your genes, and besides, surfing is about timing—not strength
or muscle.” Brad emphasized that brute force doesn’t make a powerful surfer. He
makes an example out of Rob Machado, who is only 135 lbs., and is one of the
world’s most powerful surfers today.
“It’s really all about timing. The judges will be looking at how radically you can
place your surfboard along different parts of the wave.” Force has little to do with
5) “Be a collector of good people.”
A life on tour isn’t always about training hard and being competitive in and out of
the water. The truth is, traveling the world to surf the best waves will also open
doors for many beautiful friendships.
“You meet all sorts of wonderful people on tour and you’ve got to treat them like
plants—you got to water them.” Brad laughs. He takes pride in his collection of
good and healthy friendships from all over the world as he’s the type of guy who
makes friends easily and keeps all of them.
Go on, make more friends. After all, it’s what makes life amazing.
Fans at the Hurley Pro Trestles
To know more about Brad Gerlach and his latest surf exploits, follow him on Instagram: @bradgerlach. To catch the latest heats on the PSCT, follow the official account: @official.psct
Words by Camille Pilar, Photo of talk by Michael Eijansantos, Photos from Trestles by Sabs Bengzon