Now Unlocked: Luke Davis Releases New Edit, Dishes On Ultimate Surfer, Techno Dance Career And More
“My main focus in life is to get as barrelled as possible — I would literally spend every last dollar doing that.”
Luke Davis is a character that could never be replicated.
San Clemente’s James Dean rose through the competitive ranks with good friend Kolohe Andino but has since turned into one of freesurfing’s top entertainers. From packing stomach-churning cathedrals in Panama with Koa Smith to his frequent Instagram dance routines, Luke has tapped into surfing’s ‘fun’ vein.
We’re not the only ones to take notice of his cultural transcendence, as Luke has been cast in surfing’s biggest swing at reality TV success, THE Ultimate Surfer.
While Luke’s journey toward small-screen stardom has only just begun, he is currently co-starring on the big screen as well — or at least the biggest screen in surfing. Luke and friends’ latest film, Reckless Isolation, is touring across the US and raising funds for Project Nasi in the process. On top of all of this, he is releasing his latest edit Subterranean above, which features eight minutes of Morrocco’s coveted movements of water.
With three projects and a film tour currently underway, now is the perfect time to catch up with Luke. Click to watch Subterranean above, and scroll below to hear about his Moroccan experience, as well as what it was really like on-set of surfing’s most recent reality TV show.
Stab: Unfortunately, you got knocked out of the Ultimate Surfer in the first week, but your two-episode run was very entertaining. How was the experience?
Luke Davis: It was pretty crazy. The whole process from casting to filming the show took a year and a half. A lot of us were friends going into it so we knew it was going to be fun.
There were no cell phones or TV while you’re out there, so we bonded for a month and I feel like we’re all super close friends now. That was a refreshing change of pace.
Did you feel any hesitation during the casting process?
I remember going to Kolohe’s house and his wife Maddi was like “We’re signing you up for this thing, you’re doing it.” I didn’t even know what it was, but she sat down and filled out the whole form for me.
There wasn’t really any hesitation for me because of how many other people were signing up, and who they were. Basically every US surfer over the age of 21 signed up for the Ultimate Surfer casting.
When you got put on a team with Anastasia Ashley, you made a comment about having to be a surf dad. Do you think being on her team was the reason for your early departure?
There was definitely some animosity between the two friends groups, which I got roped into, but she’s not the reason I lost the surf off. I lost that on my own.
You were out there for one month with no phones and no TV. What was your daily schedule like? What were you doing when you weren’t filming?
In terms of the schedule, we’d wake up around eight and make coffee, then halfway through coffee the filming would start. There would be five people filming you and they had cameras all around the compound. We would get a few practice waves each day and other than that, we’d just sorta chill around the campsite area we were living in.
We would get pulled to do interviews like twice a day, but there was definitely a lot of downtime. No phones for once was nice, it made us actually have to talk to each other.
Were you excited by the chance to win three wildcards and compete on the CT?
I never fully committed myself to the QS. I was super young (17) when I started doing 6-stars, and I definitely was enjoying my time out of the water while traveling and competing. Having the opportunity to get onto the highest level was definitely exciting and I would have loved to see what I could have done against the world’s best. It really was an amazing opportunity.
Now that the show’s over, what are your thoughts on the final product?
I cringe watching myself on camera, but I think it came out well. I always felt comfortable on set and was able to be myself during the interviews.
Billy Kemper not only made a cameo in Episode 2 of Ultimate Surfer, but he was on the trip that delivered the above edit. What was your immediate reaction when he got injured?
We were a solid two weeks into non-stop surf in empty lineups. That last day was pumping, and I eventually told Koa “I’m done,” and paddled in. I literally felt delusional from surfing so much. When I got in, I saw a bunch of skis scrambling out the back and then someone pulled up in the car and said “Billy broke his leg, get in!”
I was truly baffled. It was such a good time up until that point. I had never witnessed a major injury like that on a trip.
I’ve romanticized about Morroco ever since a Stab feature with Jay Davies/Noa Deane from one of the old print editions. What’s the scene like over there?
It’s crazy beautiful desert terrain. Amazing sunsets, amazing food. One of my favorite foods in the world is this dish called tagine which is just phenomenal. Every interaction I had with the locals was warm and inviting. If you have barrels, nice people, and good food, you’re on a good surf trip.
Tell us about this slab in the middle of this edit. That wave looks incredibly sketchy. You even decided to wear a helmet.
Our guide Jerome Sayhoun has posted some clips from there in the past. Both he and that wave are so gnarly. He’s paraglided off a mountain down into a wave with his board on his feet. A he’ll surf 10 hour days, sleep for six hours and literally go tow that wave at 1 am with lights on his board. He has that place dialed.
I had never properly towed before, only done step-offs. As you can see in the edit, that wave sucks dry. I went on that first one and kicked out… then someone in the channel offered me their helmet. If there was ever a time to wear one, that was definitely it — seeing as I got tossed on two set waves after that.
Is this trip the most barrelled you’ve ever gotten?
It’s definitely up there. In terms of wave quality this was a top 3 trip for me. The Indo trip where we filmed Reckless Isolation was amazing. I’ve gotten psycho waves in Panama as well but it was slightly less consistent than Morocco/Indo.
You’ve been freesurfing for a few years now and have built your own audience. Where do you feel like you’re at in your career?
Man, I don’t know. The past year and a half has been a crazy time for everyone. My main focus is trying to go on as many surf trips as I can and continue to make the most of it. Not everyone can go on strike missions anywhere in the world. I’m very grateful for the opportunity. My main focus in life is to get as barrelled as possible — I would literally spend every last dollar doing that.
Being a freesurfer, you’ve had the opportunity to experiment with boards of all different shapes and sizes. What has Mayhem been cooking up for you lately?
Being in California, the waves aren’t pumping all that often, so getting on those fun boards has allowed me to have a lot more fun, more often. My favorite board was the Quiver Killer, I rode that for two years. Then Matt dropped the Rad Ripper and I picked up a stock version, which was magic. Lately I’ve been riding this new board called the Retro Tripper which is a 2 + 1 fishy board that goes insanely fast and is coming out sometime later this year.
Last question: Any updates on your dance career?
I’ve got all the minimal techno moves down, I just have to up my production value. I’m hoping to branch out into some new filming techniques in the coming months and keep raising the bar.
If you like what you see above, make sure to check the Reckless Isolation tour schedule here to watch more of Luke and his friends in world-class, barreling waves.
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