'I love the absolute freedom'

Sam Lamiroy, 32, is a professional surfer who lives in Perranporth, Cornwall. He's a member of the Swatch Pro Team.

What do you actually do?

I competed on the world circuit for seven years, but as most competitions are in the summer the waves were often tiny. So now I do discovery trips, exploring unusual new places to surf. My trips are usually covered by the media, and because I have my sponsors' branding on my board and wetsuit, it creates an association between my lifestyle and the brand I represent. At the end of the year, I sit down and try to put a value on the press coverage I've had, based on ad rates.

What's your working day like?

I'm out of the country for about three quarters of the year. From now until June, I have four spare days – I'm off on a snowboarding training trip to the Alps, then to India on a charity trip. When I'm at home, I check the weather charts every night, and if the waves are going to be good, I'll get up really early. A good day of surfing would be a couple of sessions, each lasting two to three hours. If you stay in the water too long, it gets quite chilly – even in a wetsuit – and in the tropics you'd be burnt to a crisp.

What do you love about it?

The sense of absolute freedom. It's almost elemental. I don't know what it would be like not to do something I love for a living – my job is the best thing in the world, on steroids. It's also a privilege to go a step beyond the places people normally get to travel to.

What's not so great about it?

You miss your friends and family. When you're away for a long time, it can be quite difficult to have a normal relationship with the people who are closest to you. I spend a lot of time living out of hire cars and suitcases, and hanging around departure lounges. But the payoff is phenomenal.

What skills do you need to do the job well?

Surfing's more about adaptive skills than pure physical endurance and fitness. It's almost like a martial art. The sea is a quickly changing environment, so you have to be artistic, creative, and able to interpret your surroundings. If you want to make a living from it, you have to be smart and know what your sponsors want. You're constantly dealing with people, so you need to be genial and professional. You can't just surf every day.

What advice would you give someone with their eye on your job?

You have to be very good at surfing. This means starting young – 10 years old is as late as you can leave it, if you want to do it professionally. Keep evolving. Even Kelly Slater, the Tiger Woods of surfing, says he's never surfed a wave perfectly.

What's the salary and career path like?

Your first sponsorship is usually free clothes or a surfboard from the local surf shop. If you get your picture in a magazine, you might get a few hundred pounds. Big companies often take promising young surfers under their wing and set aside a travel and development budget for them, rather than giving them money directly. Once you start competing on the international circuit, the lowest you might earn is £20,000 a year; the top surfers can earn £1m.

Sam will take part in the forthcoming O'Neill Highland Open by Swatch ( www.oneilleurope.com/highlandopen). For more information on surfing, visit www.britsurf.co.uk; www.a1surf.com; or www.surfersvillage.com.