When you hear the words “professional surfer,” competitive surfing naturally comes to mind. Considering that most professional surfers are indeed in the sport for the sake of competition, this isn’t a surprise. But here’s one guy who begs to differ. His name’s Sam Hammer, and while he rides the waves for a living, we bet you’ve never heard of him. Matthew Stanmyre of NJ.com sits for a chat with Sam, who is also nicknamed “the wave whisperer”:
“Sam Hammer understands the ocean. The waves, he knows, are generated by distant winds traveling thousands of miles before reaching shore. Gust speed and the depth of the water intensify the swells. He searches for the ideal interval between waves—8 to 10 seconds.
Hammer, a professional surfer, never underestimates the power of the ocean. It is boundless, he knows. But he has found a way to measure it, to sense it. They say he speaks to the ocean.
The process begins in his kitchen in Point Pleasant, two miles from the nearest shore. On his laptop, he studies weather patterns, monitors buoy size and swell direction and pulls up live surf cameras on dozens of beaches. His life is devoted to pursuing waves across the world, to chasing the ultimate swells.
Dozens of surfers in New Jersey can claim some degree of pro status, but none have been able to cash in like Hammer, those in the surf industry say. He is sponsored by five major companies who cut him a monthly paycheck and keep him outfitted in the latest surfing gear.
Rather than compete in contests across the world, Hammer, 33, is almost exclusively an editorial surfer—his earnings based on his surfing images appearing in print or online. The greater the exposure he gains for his sponsors, the more money he can demand. He is equal parts pro athlete and professional model. Staying atop the swells is crucial, and he has to look dynamic while doing it.
“That’s my job,” Hammer says. “That’s how I make my money. You figure out where the best waves are going to be, and that’s where you go.”
He isolates the path of storms, anticipating their dying out, their roaring into manageable swells. Then he sends out an alert to his photographers. With the seasons, he heads for the best opportunities, be it Casino Pier in Seaside Heights in fall or Puerto Escondido, Mexico, in summer.
His goal is to create the most vibrant image.
Ten years ago, he spent a month bobbing on a diesel engine boat off the coast of Indonesia’s Mentawai Islands, riding waves of deep turquoise. Earlier this year, he visited Unstad, Norway, to surf against a backdrop of whitecap mountains. His prescience with swells has made him a cult figure in New Jersey surfing and beyond.
“He’s got some kind of relationship with the ocean,” says Mike Gleason, one of Hammer’s surfing acolytes from the Jersey Shore. “When that guy paddles out, every good wave will come to this guy. It’s, like, the weirdest thing you’ll ever see.” Read the rest of the story here.
No wonder Sam Hammer eventually became a professional surfer. The guy has been doing it since birth, having grown up in a place that’s about a hundred yards from the ocean. To know more about Sam’s surfing history, click here. What do you think? Would you enjoy being this type of professional surfer?