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Then & Now
It was the early 80s and the world of sport was evolving rapidly.
For over a century athletes of the highest calibre had the world marvelling at their feats, yet to push for greater heights, and to raise the sport to new levels, this required hard work, which required time. Yet for the majority of world athletes, they still had to go to work to survive. Sure, major sports such as basketball, baseball, soccer, boxing, and a few more had been professional sports for over a century before this era, but even our beloved sport of rugby was still amateur meaning our top players in the All Blacks held down other jobs. But it was in this decade-spanning into the early 80s that many sports that sat on the fringes began their transformation into the professional era. Surfing was booming and the industry surrounding it grew massively along with it. Even here in NZ, the roll-on benefits were being lapped up by our local surfers.

All of a sudden you could be ‘Pro’, and make money from riding waves, winning contests and endorsing products. This era and injection of hype, finance, and a need for a promotional platform lead to the birth of NZ Surfing Magazine in 1985. One of the stars of that era and a man who graced many of the pages of this mag, hoisting trophies, laying rail or at the top of the contest results ladder was Erin Saunders. Fast forward 30 years and Erin is once again back at the pro contests, this time involved with the next Saunders generation in his son, Jacob. Yet as we sit and chat out on the point at Stent Rd you can still see the passion burning in Erin’s eyes, and only a few weeks later after a several-decade hiatus from competition Erin once again pulled on the rashy and entered the open division of a pro event held near his now home of Mt Maunganui.

Erin is a man who has seen it all from the transformation through the pro era, to where surfing sits now, a corporatised industry. We caught up for a few glimpses of what it was like back in the day compared to now.

Tell us about the move to the professional era, what the NZ circuit was like back then and how you could make a bit of money to support your surfing?

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Issue 187