There has been plenty of talk in professional surfing circles about the rise of European surfing. Even a cynic can't ignore the role that Europeans are playing on the international surfing stage. Think Jeremy Flores and his current Top 10 ASP ranking; think Tiago Pires and his barrel-riding prowess at Teahupoo and his ability to take down Kelly Slater at the peak of his powers; think Marlon Lipke… wait, Marlon Lipke? Yes, Marlon is the first German surfer to make his mark on the international stage and is currently ranked ninth on the WQS. It seems highly likely that he will be the first German surfer to qualify for the WCT. "How is this possible?" you may ask, or even "How is it possible for a surfer from a landlocked country to be on the verge of cracking the very upper-echelon of competitive surfing?" That does, of course, assumes you use words like "echelon."
In reality, the circumstances that have led to Marlon becoming one of 2008's best performers is both logical and simple. At age 11, Marlon moved to wave-rich Portugal, where he first stood on a board, and spent the majority of his youth plying his trade. Brief stints back in Germany did see him landlocked for a time, but Marlon became a standout on Munich's now infamous stationary river wave. When he moved back to Portugal, he began his career as a successful junior surfer, but it was only when Marlon lost his sponsor that he really got going: "When you realize that you might not have the [surfing] lifestyle forever, it really motivates you. I just put everything into doing well in contests."
Since being picked up by Hurley at the beginning of 2008, Marlon has certainly achieved the goals he set himself, but now, sitting on the cusp of qualifying for the 2009 WCT, it would seem that Lipke's got a lot more on his plate.
"I haven't even thought about the WCT yet. To me it's not real, I'm scared that if I think about it, it might not happen." In reality, Marlon looks pretty well set for a starting position in 2009's WCT lineup, but accedes that he'll have to change his approach if he wants to succeed in the big leagues.
"So far I've been focusing on exactly what I have to do to make it through heats," he says. "It might not always be the prettiest surfing, but its what you have to do."
It is an approach that he is planning on changing if (or when) he makes it onto the WCT. "I'll definitely have to rebuild my surfing for the WCT if I want to do well. I don't think it will be that difficult because I can imagine it, and from there, it should be easy."
But right now, Lipke is focusing on the final two events of consequence in this year's WQS season: the Reef Hawaiian Pro and the O'Neill World Cup of Surfing. "I know I'm supposed to say that I'm focused and ready for those events," Marlon says with a laugh, "but I'm really hoping that no one below me on the rankings does well."
To watch the final chapter of Marlon's breakthrough year unfold, log onto TripleCrownofSurfing.com or stay tuned to SurfeMmag.com for daily round-ups and insane photo galleries.