We use cookies to improve your experience. To find out more or disable the cookies on your browser click here.



February 27, 2014

The world’s most enduring pro surfer is also one of the most powerful, respected, and successful. And he’s recently taken up arms with the paddle. We were frothing like a poisoned dog when we got the chance to interview big Luke, but rather than subject him to our unrelenting idol-worship we opened the floor to your questions. From smartphones to surf industry decline to aggro shortboarders, it’s all in here…

Photos: Pieter Plooy

(This feature originally appeared in the Spring 2013 issue of SUP International. Print and digital subscriptions for readers worldwide are available HERE.)

1. Brian McDowell asks:

“How do we learn to backside snap like you with a paddle in our hands?”
Hey Brian, with most sup manoeuvres I try and simulate my short board surfing. So even though you have the paddle in your hands, move your arms the same way as if it wasn’t there. Of course in reason, you still hang onto the paddle. So backhand rio for a goofy, have the paddle on your left side and move both arms foreword. I do it this way so you can dig the paddle in to bring the board around really fast once you’ve hit the lip. Another way is to dig the paddle in on your right side when bottom turning for a goofy, then change sides with the paddle very quickly to bring the board around and carve down the face of the wave. This way is more difficult to master, but when mastered it’s great to watch. It feels good when you nail this one as well.

2. Rob Munro asks:
“When are you coming to ride some waves and do some downwinders with us in Cape Town?”
I would love to get to Tape Town and downwind paddle, what a perfect city for dwp. With both coasts I bet in any wind you guys would have some great runs? I was in Cape Town last year for a week before the Billabong Pro at J-Bay with my wife, we had the best time. I drove the coast down from J-Bay stopping and surfing. Didn’t get too many waves in Cape Town as a storm came in and it was huge and messy. Love your country South Africa, it’s so much like Australia.

3. Petr Jordy Zugar asks:
“Luke what’s the best practise for balance for those of us that can’t get to the water often enough?
Petr, buy a fit ball and practice the different balance exercises you can do with it. At first these exercises are really hard but after a while you will be standing on the ball balancing unassisted. Any core exercises in the gym help as well. I like riding a bike or running sand hills for extra leg strength.

4. Dominic Rodwell asks:
“How do you feel about the title ‘former vice world champion!”
Dominic, well I never got to the number one spot, so I guess vice world champ is a true statement. I’m totally ok with it, I was on the world tour for 22 years and if you said you can have a world title but not be on the tour for as long , I’d take the 22 years on tour no doubt. Sometimes I think “if only “, but it doesn’t bring me down, I had a great career and the memories are so fantastic. I really love where I’m at now, surfing, sup surfing, downwind paddling. It’s such a great era to be a waterman, don’t you think?

5. Hayley Spurway asks:
“You’re now involved with board design at Fanatic, in a nutshell are there some fundamental places where you think it’s all gonna go?”
Hayley, great question, this part of sup fascinates me. The sport is so young in the design of the boards so looking at all the different shaper’s interpretations of what they think is the way to go is so exciting. The thing I think about the most at the moment is how small the boards are getting. If you can’t paddle the board properly standing up you should be on a longer or bigger board.  A lot of guys are struggling paddling around on small boards so once they finally get a wave it rides like a surfboard. I think sup is about throwing a bigger board around with huge emphasis on using the paddle to do the manoeuvres. Watching a bigger board go places (that are) impossible without the paddle is what sup surfing is to me. So in the design it’s trying to get a board that paddles well but still rides well. So when working with Sebastian Wenzel from Fanatic this is my priority. I could go on for hours on this one!

6. Rob Sparrow asks:
“Bio-mechanically, what is it about SUP that helps your shortboarding so much Luke?”
Rob, I think it’s the all-over benefit you get from sup in the strength and balance departments. It puts about four or five different key areas you need for shortboarding into one cross training exercise, and at the same time you’re in the surf having fun riding waves,  racing or down-winding. When I get on a shortboard my arms are strong to paddle, my legs are powerful for turns or long waves, and my core is also strong for great balance.  If there aren’t any waves for shortboarding and I’ve been training with the crew at Roar in Currumbin in the mornings, I can go weeks without a surf on a shortboard and feel like I’ve not missed a day in the surf when it finally shows up.

7. Zack Kieschnick asks:
“Considering the recent restructuring of a high profile surf brand, do those working in the surf industry need to fear for their livelihoods?”
Hey Zack, well as long as retail is slow the surf industry is suffering as well. I think some of the big surf brands lost their core values for a bit and tried to get bigger than the industry could handle. Hence they are scaling back a lot of marketing and athlete sponsorship. People are always going to enjoy the surfing and beach culture, I think all the brands that have been around for a long time will survive but the road won’t be smooth for a while, so it’s a bit of a worry for some who work in the surf industry.

8. Kate Starling asks:
“Luke, what do you think of the current acceptance / non-acceptance of standup amongst lay-down surfers?”
Kate, some people make it hard for the rest of the crew riding stand ups in the surf. Lay-down surfers have the right to get pissed off if a sup guy keeps taking all the best waves in the line up. Or people that are not at a safe level on a sup and go surf the most crowded part of the beach where the waves are the best. If you’re learning in the surf on a sup you don’t need the best waves on the beach. So find a spot where there aren’t too many people and practice there. For me I try not to take the best wave of every set. Let’s face it, I don’t think riding a sup you need the best waves to enjoy yourself. That’s what makes riding a sup so fun for me. You can make average waves so much fun and that keeps you in the water.

9. Ben Ridding:
“In your tour days, I read you were running a holdings company from a mobile phone as you travelled the world. Did you realise at the time you were pre-dating the digital nomad movement by about ten years? And are you a bit of a tech-addict?”
Ben, yes I’m a tech addict, it was worse when I was on the tour than I am now. Apple have made all our lives so much easier to handle work, and stay in the water longer. Back in the day I had a lot of things on the go at once. I was an owner of Electric sunglasses in Australia, I was developing properties, sitting as a surfer’s rep on the ASP world tour, and doing the world tour!  I also did all this without having a manager. I had my mother working for me as she is a professional book keeper. So mum was doing the books and the admin, I was dealing with everything else. I like to keep busy, but for a while there it was out of control. This was all pre gfs, the last few years I’ve been mentoring, coaching and working for Billabong as an ambassador in a few different roles. Waiting for the financial world to be normal again, but hey, I’m not holding my breath!

10. Cynthia Moore asks:
“Cloudbreak, G-Land, Mundaka, Pipe…among the most terrifying waves on the planet, in which you excel. Do you think this is a matter of nature, or nurture?”
Cynthia, my passion for good waves has been unstoppable all my life. It’s ruled my life! Where I live, where I travel to, so I guess the more good wave spots you surf the better you get. I really believe in respecting the ocean and it will respect you. Using common sense in big waves or dangerous reef breaks is so important. The guys you see who are the best time and time again all work on calculated risk.  Yes you get a kick out of pushing the boundaries, and sometimes you come off second best, but when you make a wave that is looking impossible, it’s addictive and you want more.

11. Will Waters asks:
“You’ve taken up arms with the sup, any plans to get into windsports? Or do you do that already?”
In my older years I’m enjoying learning new disciplines in the water. I’ve had a kite boarding lesson on the beach controlling the kite, but yet to take the next step and get in the water. At the moment when the wind gets strong I’m looking for a down wind run.

12. Will Bennet asks:
“For us bigger blokes, what principle advantage does having a strong Celtic frame give a bloke in the surf over the little guys?”
I’ve always enjoyed watching bigger guys surf, especially in small waves, a big guy going really fast and doing big turns looks much better than a small guy wouldn’t you say Will? Keeping your strength up and being agile is really important for a big guy in the surf.

13. James Waters asks:
“Luke you coach guys like Parko to insane levels of brilliance; have you developed your own techniques or is this classic sports coaching? And what are the biggest hurdles as a coach you face?”
My coaching has been a mix of all my experiences as a professional surfer. The biggest hurdle is not making things too complicated, taking it one step at a time. I’ve really enjoyed coaching Parko over the last few years, he is such a great surfer and loves what he does. He gets a kick out of getting better and enjoys the results from training hard.

14. Eddie Wilson says:
“Ask Luke what he thinks of the UK surf. If he says yeah it’s OK tell him he’s lying and needs to spend a winter here scoring the best waves in the world.”
Eddie, cold there hey in the winter? I’m sure you guys get your fair share of great waves though. I’d love to spend a winter in Europe surfing and snowboarding. So if that happens, I might take you up on a trip around your parts finding perfect waves in the freezing cold. 

I think sup is about throwing a bigger board around with huge emphasis on using the paddle to do the manoeuvres. Watching a bigger board go places (that are) impossible without the paddle is what sup surfing is
to me.


You must be logged in to post a comment.