Earlier this season, Taj Burrow (AUS) announced that he will skip the European Championship Tour (CT) contests to witness the birth of his first child. That was the easy part. Being a parent who surfs for a living is an entirely different story, according to CT vets who've learned to trade dawn patrol for daddy duty.
"There's no way to prepare for being a dad," said Josh Kerr (AUS). "Any advice you can give is to just to be patient and roll with it. So many things happen and there are so many things to enjoy along the way. You can never really expect anything because everything's unexpected when you become a new dad."
Burrow announced in July that he and girlfriend Rebecca Jobson were going to have their first child. At that time he was World No. 6 on the Jeep Leaderboard and by the time the European leg came along he arguably could have been in the race for a World Title -- a prize that has eluded him for 18 years as a CT competitor. Still, his decision to miss two of the remaining events came as no surprise to other dads on Tour.
"There's no way you can miss the birth of your first child," said Glenn Hall (IRL), whose family recently joined him for the Hurley Pro at Trestles in San Clemente, Calif. "That's more important than money or trophies or anything."
This is the most monumental moment of my life. - Burrow
Burrow joins a growing cadre of dads on the elite Tour, who now number in the double-digits. While having children on the road may mean more baby formula than post-heat beers, it may also impact what happens in competition. Joel Parkinson (AUS) won his 2012 Title with three kids in tow, a fact not lost on Hall.
"When I saw Joel win his World Title having three kids I was probably more impressed than other people were," he said, "because I know how hard it is to get things done and get around the world having a family. You have to have such a supporting wife and kids that have to sacrifice as well. Obviously I have a great life but I need to get up and go to the gym and spend the day surfing and then go off on the road the next day. It's a different life from the standard 9-to-5 family."
I don't ever want to not put the effort in, knowing what they're sacrificing for me. - Hall
Maybe there's something to mastering a juggling act on land that enhances what happens in the water. In addition to Parko's achievement in 2012, big wave surfer Makuakai Rothman (HAW) won the Quiksilver Ceremonial -- and his first Big Wave Tour Title -- barely a day after his daughter was born. He dedicated his first victory to her. Dane Reynolds (USA), who had his first child in May, made it to Round 5 of the Fiji Pro in June.
Coincidences? Perhaps. For Hall, being a father has added fuel to his competitive fire.
"If I'm gonna go away and leave my wife at home with two kids to come here [and compete] I'm gonna try hard to win," Hall explained. "I don't ever want to go away and not put the effort in knowing what they're sacrificing for me to be here."
Even when the family does get to travel things can get hairy. Kerr, whose 8-year-old daughter Sierra caddied for him during the Fiji Pro, tries to balance work and play when the family comes along (the Kerrs even have their own group Instagram account). He said he's refined a sort of on-and-off switch to make things work.
"I'm pretty good about switching off when I'm not in a heat," said Kerr. "I try to enjoy being a dad and having the family and the kids there because it's a blessed opportunity for me to have them there on Tour with me.
"I'm kind of an ADD kind of grommet at heart as well, so I keep them busy. Then when I put the rashy on it's time to go out there and catch two good waves."
While Kerr has honed his ability to balance work from family, it can take time to develop a switch of one's own. And yet Burrow -- who at No. 13 out of the Title race and is assured of a spot on the 2016 Tour -- may have one already.
"People ask me, 'What if you're in Title contention?,'" he said, discussing his decision to withdraw from the European contests. "And it wouldn't change a thing. This is the most monumental moment of my life."