Paid for your Passion: From College to Pro Sailing
Published on February 12th, 2014
by Steve Hunt, Sail1Design
How cool would it be to get paid to race sailboats? It’s VERY cool! Fortunately I can say that, because I’m one of the lucky ones who get paid to sail. I am very passionate about sailing and feel extremely lucky to call it my profession.
For those of you who enjoy racing sailboats as much as I do, you may be wondering what it takes to do the same, and how someone actually becomes a pro sailor. Hopefully my story can shed some light on pro sailing and help you decide if it’s a possibility for you.
First of all from what I have observed there seems to be a few different types of pro sailors. There are those who are really good at working on boats, preparing winches, splicing running rigging, polishing, and doing all of the things it takes to prepare a fast boat. There are also those who have excelled at dinghy racing and have won a lot of regattas in their life, and are extremely good at getting a boat around the race course. Some sailors have the total package but most fall somewhere in between the two types. Winning teams need a mix of both.
An underlying theme that all pros possess is a love for boats, racing, learning and hard work. Becoming great at any sport requires dedication and passion. You have to care deeply about winning sailboat races if you want to become a pro. You have to enjoy practicing and spending the time it takes to approach mastery. And it takes a lot of time! Skill alone can get you far in Junior sailing but at some point “level-of-effort” separates the good from the great.
With that said, let’s look at how it happened for me. I did pretty well in Junior sailing but was nothing special, and my high school did not have a sailing team, so I mainly sailed in the summers and raced J/24s growing up. My dream in high school was to sail in college, become a two time all american and win college nationals. I figured if that all came true maybe I would go on and try to win a gold medal. I thought a lot about becoming an amazing sailor and looking back at my successes I can confidently say it is important to dream big. If you are going to think about anything, you might as well see yourself succeeding and winning. If you fall short, you will still be better off then if you had visualized something less then the best. Dream big!
College sailing started off rough. My first week I was ranked 15th on the team at the College of Charleston. When I realized there were only 14 boats I was super bummed thinking I did not make the team. The coach told me to hang in there and work hard and it would all work out. I did just that. – Read on