Yesterday, Luke Davis stopped by the office. I hadn't seen or heard from him in a while so I asked him where he’d been. Model-girlfriend land? Sponsor catalog trips?
Yes those, but he's mainly been at contests trying to climb up the rankings on the Prime series.
At age 20, Luke has been getting lost in the vortex for a couple years now. After a celebrated amateur career and a sizable clothing/footwear contract with Reef, it seems like he's drifted off into no-man's land. While not on the level of fellow San Clemente native Kolohe Andino, Luke has enough talent, style and competitiveness to eventually fill a consistent slot on the WCT. But realistically, he’s still a few years away from getting there.
This got me fired up on a subject that I’ve long been frustrated with: the push to get young surfers on the WCT before they are ready.
It goes back a long way. I immediately think to the Bobby Martinez/Freddy Patacchia era in the late '90s. Those guys battled it out through their high school years, inked massive deals and hopped planes to the nearest 3-star for what seemed like eternity.
It was late 2004 when Freddy P clinched a spot on the "Dream Tour". For Bobby, it was 2005. Both went on to win ASP Rookie of the Year once they finally qualified, but during those in-between years, you heard little about them while they were exchanging reos with Neco Padaratz in the shittiest waves ever. I can even remember people referring to Freddy P as "a bust" with the amount of money he was being paid by Quiksilver, as he struggled to qualify.
While I'm sure those guys enjoyed traveling and getting attacked by groupies, they probably accomplished minimal gains when it came to improving their surfing during some of the prime developmental years in an athlete’s life.
Imagine if Fred and Bob instead chose to circle the globe and chase the best waves on earth. Imagine if they opted to improve their surfing to the max while churning out video sections and cover shots for the world to drool over. Who knows where they would be today? One of them might've even challenged for a World Title.
Nearly a decade and a half later, the idea is still the same. Every semi-talent is urged to hit the road as soon as possible and climb the ranks, while in most cases, the millions of dollars dished their way fly into oblivion like those Geico Motorcycle commercials.
Gabriel, John John, Filipe, Kolohe, Miguel… these guys are freaks and part of a once in a blue moon generation. Even that group hasn’t exactly taken over the tour — the veterans are still smoking them more often than not. All of these youngins would’ve benefited from a couple more years of developing both mentally and physically (ex. When Taj declined his spot on tour for the 1997 season. Finished 12th then 2nd his first two years on the WCT).
My message to the kids is this: if you surf good at age 18, imagine what you’ll be like at 23 after you’ve spent five years riding quality waves. Entering a few comps is a good thing, but chasing it full-time is borderline pointless.
I’m talking to you Luke Davis, Evan Geiselman, Jack Freestone, Conner Coffin, Zeke Lau, Andrew Doheny. You too Jack Robinson, Kanoa Igarashi, Ian Gentil and on down the line. Want to maximize your careers? Step up your game, and then go step on some WCT throat. —Jimmicane