Although he retired from the World Tour in 2005, Luke Egan has continued to play a pivotal role in professional surfing. As the contest director for the Billabong event in Tahiti as well as Joel Parkinson’s former personal coach, Luke’s gained much respect from his peers. With that in mind, we reached out to get Luke’s perspective on his post-pro act, dealing with loss, and the current state of the World Tour.
We heard that you’ve made some changes in your career. Can you elaborate on that a bit?
Yeah, in 2012, I’ll be the contest director for all the Billabong events around the world. I’ve stepped down from the position as Parko’s coach and am now focusing on the contest-directing role.
As an event organizer, it seems like you’re surrounded by uncertainty. At its most basic level, you’re dealing with something as unpredictable as the weather. I’d imagine that a major element of that job requires you being able to improvise.
Since the beginning of my contest-directing career, which started while I was still on the World Tour at the World Junior level for Billabong at Narrabeen, I’ve always said that you’re only as good as your forecast.
What’s the most stressful part of running an event?
When you’re running out of time and the forecast is only average. You’re constantly looking forward and working on formulas to get the event done in the waiting period and in the best possible conditions for all the surfers.
And what’s the most fulfilling aspect?
For me, the most satisfying part of the job is when I see heats based on amazing surfing with one great score after another determining the winner.
There seems to be a lot of grumbling and uncertainty on the tour recently, but at the same time, I don’t think there’s ever been a better time to be a professional surfer on the World Tour. What is your take on the Tour’s current state?
If you sit there and write down the positives and negatives for the ASP World Tour for last year, the positives will out number the negatives. At the beginning of last year, we all asked for change and we got it. If you look back at comments from the surfer’s reps and the ASP board members, they all said the new system needs work and there will have to be changes in the future. So I commend all involved for making the changes and having a go. I’m sure we will see more improvements in all areas for 2012. How good is the live production of all events these days? It’s so cool to see surfing live on TV and the web around the world. Not only is it a great time to be a pro surfer, but it’s also a great time to be a spectator or fan. The bigger professional surfing gets the more lovers—and unfortunately more haters or knocker’s of the sport—you’re going to get. It’s all a part of the sport’s growth.
What’s your take on the inclusion of events like New York and San Francisco, contests that don’t necessarily play into the perfection aspect of the Dream Tour?
Having a certain amount of events like the New York comp are great for the sport, but it shouldn’t outnumber the good waves we have on tour. At the moment, I think the World Tour needs to settle down in this area. If we keep accepting events in B-grade waves, it’ll tarnish the Dream Tour tag. Surfing is so different to other sports; to have these amazing events in perfect surf we have to count on Mother Nature. We need to remember that an A-grade location with B-grade conditions is still a great playing field for competitors. It’s been a part of the success of the ASP Dream Tour over the years and this is something the ASP need to remember.
Is there a certain surfer on tour today that you see a part of yourself in? Is there a 2012 version of Luke Egan out there somewhere?
It’s hard to say, but if I had to pick one surfer on the tour today that I think resembles myself, I’d say it’d be Jordy Smith. He’s a bigger guy and so am I. The fact that he can take on the midgets in small waves and still be a threat is something not all bigger guys can do. He’s doing a great job at that. In my career, even though when the surf was bigger and of good quality I was at my best, I still think I gave the midgets of the world a good thrashing when the waves were small.
There’s the adage that you learn much more from losing than winning. Is that something you’ve found to be true?
It’s important to be able to learn from your losses and make sure you understand where things went wrong. In surfing, it’s the same. If it was something I had control of—if I fell or gave away a good wave with priority which turned around the heat—it’s hard not to get angry. But if you sit there and it stops breaking or something like that happens out of your control, you can’t beat yourself up too much. You’ve got to learn from your losses. Winning is similar: You need to make sure you learn from the win as well. You can always improve.
Having worked so closely with Joel over the years and having come so close to winning a world title so many times only to have it slip away, How did you and Joel dealt with that?
At every event there can be only one winner. Being a professional surfer, it’s your job to win. If you don’t win now, you need to go out there next week and win. In Parko’s case, he’s still a threat to win in whatever way he challenges himself. But Joel loves going surfing so much that I don’t think it bothers him too much to lose, just as long as he can wake up in the morning and surf pumping waves as good as he possibly can…that’s his passion and that’s why he does what he does.
There’s been some talk that with the introduction of non-endemic companies like Nike, surfing has lost a bit of its soul. Is that how you see it?
Having Nike come into the surf industry is fantastic. It doesn’t matter what you’re competing in—sport, business, or whatever—it’s healthy to compete against the best. Nike will help push competitive surfing into new areas, which hopefully makes others take note and invest into our sport. The surf industry will benefit from this if they approach it correctly.
What’s been the lowest point in your career?
Having Parko walk into my house and tell me Andy Irons had passed was the lowest point in my life. We lost a very close friend that meant the world to me. I still struggle to come to terms with it.
And on the flipside, what’s been the most positive?
At the moment I’m really enjoying life. I’m lucky enough to still be involved in the sport I love. To still be connected with surfing so closely after retiring from the tour…it’s a blessing. When you retire from the tour, everyone thinks you’re going home and you’ll put your boards away and that’s the end of you. Maybe that’s true for some, but I still surf and train as hard as I ever have to keep up a level of performance. And it’s all for one reason though: me. So aging for me has been great because I love where I’m at.