Ross Clarke-Jones redefines retirement

Legendary Australian big wave surfer Ross Clarke-Jones has no intention of slowing down.

As he dives headlong into his fifties, Ross plans to push the boundaries even further, continuing to tackle 90-foot waves with nothing but a surfboard. Well past the age most pro-surfers would retire, the Aussie sums his life stage up perfectly: now, his life is now more exciting than ever before.

“I always get asked when I’m going to retire,” Ross laughs. “But to be honest, I’ve never thought of retiring as surfing is not only my job, but my passion too. While I’m not ready to hang my board up just yet, I know I can’t keep surfing like this forever as it’ll be punishing for my body as I get older, so I need to think about what ‘retirement’ looks like for me. I still want to keep really active with my sport, the surfing community and what I’m doing, to help get me out of bed every day. Even if it’s not just big waves anymore, I want to be doing something that inspires me, so I’m thinking of setting up my own big wave competition and trying to raise the profile of the sport. I just don’t want to get to 65 and pack up shop, I want to keep my mind active, my spirit active and what’s left of the body active too.”

While Ross jokes about his “blasé 20s and 30s”, he’s put himself in a position to set he and his family up for a solid financial future. “Look, in your 20s, you just go for anything, and I made some silly mistakes,” he says. “But over your 30s, 40s and even 50s, you mature – you get more calculated and start thinking about the longer term future and things that make sense for you and your family.

“At this point in my life, I’ll continue to put things in place that are a little more conservative, tucking away properties I can’t touch so I have something to lean on when I can’t ride the waves I currently do.

“When it comes to investing my money, I like to stick to what I know, which is mainly property. I just sold my place in Torquay after 18 years and did well out of that, recently buying a bigger property in Phillip Island. I also want to buy a second property in Portugal, so I can overlook my favourite wave in the world. It’s actually a windmill, and as coastal law in Portugal suggests you can’t build anymore, the loophole is gradually transforming the windmill into a two-bedroom palace.”

His recent world record echoes his sentiments, becoming the first surfer to ride over the 40-metre monster that is ‘Big Mama’ in his favourite surf town of Nazare.
“In that moment, I was just so excited and charged and go, go, go,” Ross adds. “It’s just a focus on the wave and catching it and making it – it’s an absolute elation.”

While many consider the great man fearless, a hairy moment in Portugal saw him escape death after suffering a concussion at the hands of a rip. Dragging him across the waves and slamming him into rocks nearby, Ross believes if it wasn’t for his special protective suit, he would have died. “Completely out of breath, I put myself into a safer area and hid behind a rock. Another set came in and dragged me in and out, exactly like a washing machine,” Ross says. “Launching back into the rocks, I hit my head and side.”

Gaining composure, Ross somehow found the strength to scramble to the cliff. “You know what you sign up for when you surf Nazare. I always have a hell of a time, but this was a nice reminder that you never take it for granted, especially on the smaller days like today when you can get complacent – it was a big mistake.”

Because of this, he doesn’t mind spending the money if it means he’ll be safer in the surf. “In the past, I’ve been blasé with my money – spending without cause,” Ross adds. “However, I need to spend if I think it’s worth it. I need to be comfortable. Last month, I flew to Portugal for the biggest swell of the year in first class, which I never do. But I needed to arrive fresh and ready to go, or I can kill myself and there’ll be nothing left.”

While his lust for life remains, it’s obvious his years of experience have helped him shape his future years – no matter where they might be.

“When I hit 50, lots of people said that I’d start to worry about my mortality and that fear would finally get to me,” Ross says. “I love proving them all wrong and pushing myself to up the ante and go bigger each time.

“There’s no stopping me now.”

Next: We talk to legendary big wave surfer Ross Clarke-Jones

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This information is current as at 1 December 2020.  

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