Going from pro surfing to a master’s degree in engineering is quite a shift. But in Shaun’s world shredding and studying now goes hand in hand.
He’s no stranger in the South African surfing circles. Well known for his winnings as a junior surfer, his stint on the QS and that superb 2013 ISA title. Chasing the pro surfing dream, realising it’s not all you thought it to be and being open to other dreams is inspiring and refreshing. Apart from still ripping, he also enjoys a good game of golf.
And there’s more good news: he recently joined the South African RYD Team and we just love what he loves: keeping it fun, making the most of good waves and living the stoke.
Let’s create some context: tell us a bit about your surfing achievements.
My biggest highlight is most probably winning the ISA World Games in 2013, and also making the 2006 ISA World Games final (I came third). I've also won SA champs a bunch of times, a few Billabong Junior series overall titles, King of the Groms, Rip Curl Grom searches and was the WSL Africa Junior Champ in 2011 (or 2010 I can't exactly remember).
And then came the shift…
I definitely fell out of love with surfing for a year or so. It just became my "job" and after deciding to step back and take a different route I was sort of burnt out and not sure where surfing fitted into my life.
It was like a weird identity crisis — all I'd ever known was surfing. I went from wanting to go pro to a ‘what now?' kind of a thing.
Then by being forced to surf less because of studying a hectic degree and having a very full schedule, I realised how much it meant to me and how much I enjoyed doing it. I fell back in love with it. Now I'm probably as amped as ever, just a full on surf rat, especially because my time is kind of flexible studying from home.
So the stoke went away there for a little while, but I don't think that’s happening again anytime soon!
What was it like to change course?
As far as giving up the dream of being on tour and stuff, it was just one of those times in my life where I was at a juncture; where I felt like I needed to make some changes and I made a decision and stuck with my guns. Luckily I was in a position to make the shift and my parents have always supported my decisions, so they backed me all the way whether it was surfing or academics.
I know it sounds like a wild decision to make, but I've never really thought about it since, regretted it or thought I made the wrong decision. I'm very glad that I was sort of forced to make a decision. I think I made the right call and everything has turned out pretty amazingly, so I don't really think about it too much.
How did you approach the studying?
I decided to redo my maths and science in order to improve my matric marks and get into university, as well as doing some AP maths to prepare me for engineering. I definitely struggled at first, but ended up getting an industrial engineering degree and am currently busy with my master’s degree: focusing on data engineering. Safe to say I made a career 180 (laughs).
Where does surfing fit in with student life?
It was difficult to find time to surf at university. Obviously Stellenbosch isn't a beach town, the closest beach is probably 40 minutes away and I pretty much had class and practicals Monday-Friday from 08:00-17:00. I was more of a weekend and holiday warrior.
Luckily we get a lot of holidays being a student, so I always knew I had a holiday around the corner and would sort of contain my excitement for weekends and holidays. It was a difficult balance to manage, but it always made being able to go for a surf much more special.
I really learnt to appreciate any opportunity I had to go for a surf, even if the waves weren't great, it was always a "this is better than class or sitting in front of my computer" kind of approach.
Do you still put the rash vest on?
As far as competing and stuff goes these days, I'm all about having fun! Like going away for the weekend and spending the day at the beach with friends — just having a good time. Surfing heats is just an extra part of that fun. While I was at university I did the USSA (basically university SA champs) three times and won all three times. That was just such a jol going away for a week with your university mates. The surfing was the least important part of the whole outing! And I did the Boland trials so that I can surf the Vic Bay quad. I really just wanted to surf Vic Bay with three other guys!
I'll obviously always give my best and try my hardest in a contest but that’s not what puts food on the table anymore. It's obviously way more fun and I don't put any pressure on myself.
I don't live and die by my last result anymore, I think I've used up all my competitiveness!
In the word’s of Shaun Joubert: “Shred till ya dead” and it seems that he’ll do just that regardless of where life may take him!
All the best with the studies Shaun, catch you in the water and once again: welcome to the tribe!