Wink takes on Pipeline
By GREG WHITE
WITH the world championship already awarded to Kelly Slater, Coffs Harbour surfer Lee Winkler will take a mellow approach to the final tour event in Hawaii next week.
"The pressure is off," Winkler said while packing his bag.
"Everyone will be searching for good waves and some spare change for Christmas presents."
The Pipeline Masters will be Winkler's ninth event from ten entries this professional year after missing Brazil through injury.
A ninth placing was the season's best result leaving him 34th of 48 on the world circuit.
Winkler stressed while life on tour can be rewarding, both financially and professionally, a point is reached when it becomes a long, lonely grind.
"Particularly when you've been to these places more than once," he said.
"There are only so many times you can do the tourist thing and you find yourself staring at the walls in a motel room.
"Sitting around is not the best when you are longing for family and friends."
While conceding there's plenty of glamour attached to surfing, Winkler points out the high cost involved in competition.
"Just travelling to events and being accommodated on the basic number of days would leave no change from $80,000," he revealed.
"Getting there a couple of days in advance to acclimatise can add more than $10,000 to the bill.
"You have to be consistent and up in the results to stay profitable."
Sponsorship can play a part with the highest profile surfer's grabbing the lion's share.
"The biggest sponsorship comes from companies like Rip Curl and Billabong," Winkler said.
"But the big money goes to the big names and that means a scramble for what's left over."
Then, there are surfers without sponsors who pay everything out of their own pocket.
"A few of them still exist," Winkler say, "and fortunately they still seem to survive.
"Some of them are among the biggest tour earners."
According to Winkler, one dream never varies.
The quest for the perfect wave never goes away and it's a common feeling from world champion to first year rookie.
"Early indications are there's a big swell building off Hawaii," he said.
"That means top conditions by the time I get there, next week."