Don’t let his looks fool you; Luke Landrigan is mean business, able to ride out the gnarliest of waves with aplomb and grace. This professional surfer just makes it look easy. A man who goes with the flow of life’s ebb and tide with laid back ease, he nonetheless possesses a professional athlete’s focus and drive. Luke reveals the life of a pro surfer to asianTraveler.
When did you first realize that you love surfing, and what made you decide to make a career out of it?
When I caught my very first wave that’s when I fell in love with it. After high school I took up architecture but I was always traveling for competitions and I’d miss school a lot, it didn’t matter to me coz for me I’d rather do what I love doing. Then I started my surf school and from there on it was history.
You live a life that’s considered a “dream life” by most people who live in the city and have to go through the daily grind of the usual 8-to-5 jobs. Perhaps most of us do not realize that there are lots of challenges too in living the life of a celebrity surfer. What are these challenges, if they do exist? How do you face up to them?
Living in one of the most famous surfing town here in the country is like having a vacation all year long. It’s funny because my work is better than other people’s holiday. Once in a while I want something different so I’ll go to the city (Manila) but after three days I wanna get out of there. I don’t think celebrity surfer is the right word. I don’t get as much attention and free stuff as the celebrities I know. Maybe I’m just known because I live in a resort, teach people to surf and they see me in magazines once in a while.
You are looked up to not only as a celebrity surfer but also as someone that ladies highly admire for your good looks and sex appeal. It has become a staple question to those who just arrived from your surf resort and has come back to the city if they have seen you in LU (La Union). How do you feel about being the poster boy for surfing in the Philippines?
I must thank my mom for the good looks and my dad for sex appeal. (Laughs.) To tell you the truth I’d rather want people come up to me and have a photo taken or sign an autograph because of the talent, not the looks. I’ve never expected I’ll be this poster boy image people think I am but Im very thankful to them that they see me that way. As long as I see people with big smiles because they had so much fun while surfing, that’s enough to make my day and those kind of stuff inspire me.
In past interviews, you have mentioned about the misconceptions people usually have about the surf culture. What is the surf culture? And what is so appealing about it?
I think the surf culture has changed when you compare it to the culture they had in 1960’s to the 1980’s. I wasn’t born then but when I watch old surf film made during those years they show how surfers used to take drugs and stuff. Now most (not all) surfers are professionals whether you’re ordinary weekend Manila surfers who have day jobs, or surfers that surf to live, or surfers who run surf schools or work for the surf industry. Surfers in general are fun people to be with. We’re just easy and chill people.
What are your most memorable surfing competitions and what did you win from these?
The most memorable thing I did because of surfing didn’t come from competitions. Last December my instructorsand I taught 20 special kids. Seeing all the kids smiling and having a blast was something else. I’m looking forward to doing another one soon but competition wise its when we represented the Philippines at the 2008 Asian Beach Games and I won silver in the longboard division.
How are Filipinos faring in the global surfing arena?
In Asia we are in the top three for sure but it’s hard to tell globally because Filipinos have problems traveling to other continents and compete becuase of the passports we are holding with all the visa requirements and stuff. Plus, there’s not much support yet.
What support do Filipino surfers need, and from whom, to further elevate their competitiveness?
I think non-surfing companies is what we need here. Why can’t San Mig Light sponsor a competition in Indonesia? But we draw as much spectators as them. Soon I think they’ll see why they should sponsor.
You’ve mentioned in some of your interviews last year that one of the challenges faced by our best surfing beaches (La Union, Surigao and Baler) is inaccessibility. Based on your more recent travels, has there been any improvement?
All the new roads being built heading north will help the surf provinces in northern Luzon. It cuts the traveling time by 2hours coz of the new freeways. I just hope the flights will start flying to La Union again. Down south Siargao definitely needs a direct flight from Manila.
Surfing must have exposed you to travel to the most popular beaches. And since you practically grew up in two countries (Australia and the Philippines), both of which are surfing destinations, you must be really keen on what the best beaches for surfing are. What would you recommend as the best beaches for surfing in the world?
For me, I’m not being biased but the Philippines have the best waves I surfed and the best beaches. It is just so hard and expensive to get to. It’s cheaper to fly to Bali than to Siargao for a weekend. Indonesia and Australia have great waves also but I just feel at home here.
Do you also go to the beach for other activities other than surfing? What are your other favorite beach activities? And who do you usually hang out with at the beach when not surfing?
I go to the beach just to surf. If I go to a beach and there’s no waves I think I won’t enjoy it. I always hangout with my friends.