THE UK HAS A WORLD SURFING CHAMPION
YEP, THE UK
''Does England even get waves?'' is a common question every travelling British surfer has heard more than once. The answer is yes, and it may even be a lot better than you think.
The island of Great Britain boasts nearly 20,000 miles of coastline and receives consistent swell from the Atlantic and North Sea 300 days per year.
Recently, North Devon was announced as the world’s 12th 'World Surfing Reserve' alongside iconic surfing locations such as Noosa and Malibu, while Newquay, a town in Cornwall, built entirely around fishing and surfing is the epicenter of British surf culture and the home of a vibrant surf industry. However, it's not every day you see the Brits shining a light on the international contest scene. But, make no mistake about it, a new crop of poms are coming like a stampede. In recent years, a stable of young rippers have begun rising from the motherland, no longer living in the shadow of their European counterparts.
One name in particular is proudly flying the flags of Cornwall, England and Great Britain collectively, and leading the new surge of talent; freshly crowned GromSearch World Champion, Lukas Skinner.
How does it feel to be crowned GromSearch World Champ? Has it sunk in yet?
It feels pretty crazy. It only kicked in at the surprise party when I got home. It feels so good to be a World Champ, I just couldn't explain a better feeling. Actually, I'm lost for words.
The last two months have been a whirlwind for you. Give me a quick overview of what you’ve done in that short time, beginning at Morocco…
It’s been crazy, I managed to take out the European Rip Curl GromSearch in Morocco with all my family there and a bunch of friends. Then we came home to a couple of sick swells with some perfect days, just surfing several times a day. Then British Surfing took me and Alys Barton out to California to train with Sky Brown and a couple other Americans. That was super cool and we surfed all morning, trained at the gym, worked on mobility and then surfed heats all afternoon. I couldn't have asked for a better build-up to Bells. Then I literally flew home for a day to see family before flying to Australia for three weeks.
You've come back from a major injury, tell me what happened.
I used to skateboard every day, and we have this crazy concrete park in Newquay. I was probably five-foot in the air above an eight-foot quarter-pipe and my truck clipped the coping on the way down. So, I ended up dropping 13-feet, straight into the flats onto my elbow which caused a 'Grade Four' laceration to my spleen. It was the worst pain I've ever experienced, and I was airlifted to Bristol Hospital, 160 miles away. I had to spend three weeks there with five days in intensive care. It was so heavy. When I finally got home, I had to stay in bed for three months so that my spleen could repair, followed by two months of rehab before finally getting back in the water. That was an incredible feeling to get back in the ocean after five months.
You’ve only just turned 15, so how do you balance school and surfing?
School is super hard to balance. My school has been good and they've been really supportive and understand everything, and they've been making sure I'm on top of my work and I'm trying my hardest to get most of my work done.
What are your goals for the next few years?
Right now, I'd like to make it into the ISAs, but my main goal is the Olympics, that’s at the top of my list for sure. The CT is something I've got my eye on in a few years, but I'll start on the QS when I'm 17. I'm so determined I just want to get there as fast as I can. I'd really like to win the WSL Junior European Tour, that's a big dream of mine too. For now, I just want to go on as many surf trips as I can, work on every weakness and improve everything so that I'm ready to compete against the best people in the world.
You’re an ambassador for The Wave in Bristol, how important has the wavepool been to your training and progression?
The Wave has been a really big part of my performance, having their facility to use all the time, it's pretty special and I love going there. It really improves your surfing just being able to repeatedly go, wave-after-wave, work on technique, work on combinations and fine-tune everything. There are a load more wave pools in the pipeline for the UK too, which is great.
Your dad [Ben Skinner] has been competing for many years on the World Longboard Tour, how has his experience with travel and competing helped your journey?
I couldn't have asked for anything more growing up watching my dad compete. He’s 11 times European champ and currently fifth in the world. He has taught me so much about competition and he’s always there for me whether I win or lose. The amount he's taught me is just crazy and I know he is the reason I feel so confident when competing.
What FCS hardware are you using and how important is your equipment when competing at the top?
I've been so lucky to be able to work with FCS since I was pretty young and they were one of my first real sponsors. I'm currently riding Mick Fanning's FCSII MF Large in pretty much everything. They are my go-to fins and I feel comfortable riding them. I can put them in any board, and I feel really good. I'm so confident with my equipment that I don't even need to think about it much. I'm also always on the FCS Toledo pads and I mostly use the FCS Essential Series comp leashes. When I’m travelling I use the FCS Travel board bags which are sick for fitting in loads of boards and getting me to events.