Budding pro-surfer blows $26,000
By SAMANTHA TURNBULL
HIS nickname is Jesus, but Byron Bay surfer Johnny Abegg is yet to perform a miracle to cover the $26,300 cost of following his dream.
The former long-haired and bearded Son of God look-alike returned to Byron Bay from the Association of Surfing Professionals World Qualifying Series (ASP WQS) in November with a ranking of 193 ? and a credit card debt of $23,475.02.
With financial sponsorship scarce, Johnny decided the only way to follow the tour was to apply for four credit cards and max them out.
Every credit increase meant more time overseas and when the cards reached their limits he would return home for stints of washing dishes at Earth and Sea restaurant and working at Mad Dog surf shop.
His secret weapon was applying for the credit on the Internet.
"It was much easier online than running around between banks and filling in forms," he said.
"Because I was working two jobs there was no problem. I actually haven't missed a payment."
Johnny now faces monthly repayments of $576, and $341.51 of that is interest, which he pays off with the money he earns from casual work.
However, he says the people he met, the cultures he experienced and, of course, the waves he surfed made the massive debt worth it.
"I slept in a park for eight nights and got wet when the sprinklers came on, while another guy slept on the roof of a kiosk in France and someone else slept in a bean field and ate nothing but beans," he said. "I'd do it all again if I could get another increase, but proper sponsorship would be much better."
Johnny said obtaining full financial sponsorship was a realistic goal, considering there were surfers ranked between 300 and 350 on the WQS who had secured deals.
"It's been my dream to be a professional surfer since I was about 10," he said.
"I have to make the most of my seeding at the moment and to do that I'll have to go again this year."
Sponsorship for Johnny this year could depend on media exposure, which he hopes to achieve through a documentary he is making about his experiences called 'On Credit'.
"I've got a few projects happening, but it's all about that surfing dream," he said.
"I dream of living differently and stepping into the unknown, of foreign cultures and new faces, the world's best waves.
"What do you dream of?"