Lukas Skinner - Interview with the 2023 GromSearch World Champion
Lukas Skinner is the 2023 GromSearch World Champ!
To say the past couple of months have been epic for the 15-year-old dryrobe® ambassador would be a massive understatement! Last week he won the 2023 Rip Curl GromSearch International title, at Bells Beach, Australia, becoming the first British surfer ever to win this competition.
This legendary competition draws 12 of the best young surfers from around the globe to battle it out for the U16 Boys and Girls titles. Lukas follows in the footsteps of some illustrious previous winners, including 7 times World Champion Stephanie Gilmore and two times World Champion Gabriel Medina.
Between interviews with The Times and the BBC, Lukas and his dad Ben managed to fit us in for a chat about how he got to the GromSearch final, training in the US with Sky Brown, narrowly missing out on the English men’s title and how he manages to fit this all around his school work…
First of all, obviously massive congratulations! Has it sunk in yet?
Not really! Well, it sunk in when I saw everyone back at home. It's still weird, but it's kind of kicking in now.
You must have got it when you walked into the homecoming party in Newquay. Was that a surprise?
Yeah, I got told I was going for dinner with my granddad, so I walked into craziness!
Was that the moment you realised that it also meant a lot to the community around you?
Yeah, that was when it all just sunk in and I was like ‘Whoooaaaa!’
What were the conditions like for the final? Were they sort of similar to what you're used to, or did you have to approach it in a different way?
The waves were really fun for the CT (WSL Championship Tour event) but it got to high tide, and it just turned into rubbish. So they called the CT off and put us in! It was pretty much three feet howling onshore Fistral, so I felt pretty good. It was really like home actually, so it was kind of nice.
There was the initial bit where you had your semi-final and then there was a long gap of days before the final, right?
The semi-final was eight feet onshore at Bells, which was really sick - it was so fun. Then we had to wait eight days for it to run again. We were at the beach from 6.30am every day, waiting to be held all day. It was really draining, but it was all worth it. They kind of had to run us on that last day, so we were kind of prepared to be in whenever.
It must have been a cool experience though, hanging around with all the pros at a full WSL event and seeing what they're up to.
Yeah, it was so sick. Every morning we were surfing with all of them and then surfing with them all day, pretty much. It pushed my surf to the best it's ever been.
Did any of the Pros give you any good pointers for surfing Bells?
Griffin Colapinto gave me a few, and one of the local Rip Curl guys took me out on the first day and told me where to sit. There were loads of markers and stuff, which was sick.
Was this your first trip travelling solo? How was it being in Australia?
Yeah, it was. I have never travelled on my own before, so it was a pretty big step. It felt really like home. Actually, there were parts that just felt like Cornwall, it's pretty raw out there and it was really cool.
The beginning of your journey to World Champ started out as a wildcard entry. What did it mean to get that opportunity?
Yeah, I actually got the wildcard to Morocco (GromSearch European Final) and to then go on and win it as a wildcard was sick. I think it was better than it would have been if I actually qualified for it. I was really grateful to have a wildcard in Morocco because without that all of this would have never happened, thanks Rip Curl!
You were in the British Gromsearch U14s event and you lost through an interference call in the final? And that then allowed you to then ultimately get the wildcard into the U16s.
Ben: It was a questionable call, but essentially he lost. And it was a pretty bad moment for him. So to look back on that now is pretty mental, isn't it?!
Lukas: Actually, I'm actually so happy I didn't win that event because this would have never ever happened!
Prior to the final, you were in America for a bit with Sky Brown. What was the importance of training outside the UK with the other top groms out there?
Yeah, it was super cool. It was only my second time in America and we were training with Sky Brown, two American boys a girl from Hawaii and Alys Barton. We were pretty much free surfing all morning, having lunch and then doing heats for four hours after. I built my confidence in heats, with a guy called John, and we were doing that for a week straight, we probably did about 30 heats I reckon. I felt really comfortable going to Oz to surf a comp.
I think it definitely built some confidence up for me. And, surfing against some of the best American kids, definitely pushed me a lot.
Did you learn a lot from how the Americans approach their training?
Yeah, for sure I think we all learned a lot, as in how they’re coaching the kids out there was pretty much completely different to how we train here. It was definitely an eye-opener. And to surf Lowers and stuff was sick!
You've probably had a crazy couple of weeks with competitions interviews and stuff. How do you balance the surf commitments with school?
They've been really supportive. I went back to school yesterday, and it was really cool. Everyone was so happy, they even gave me a bit of a shout-out in assembly, which was pretty nerve-wracking! So yeah, I know it's been good. It's pretty hard to keep up sometimes, but I'm keeping track at the moment. It's kind of crazy how much work they give you, it's pretty intense, but they've been really good.
Ben: They've been really supportive in the fact that if it does get too much for him, then we discuss it and make the best plan for him so that he can come out with a good education, and still go on and continue his dreams.
Congratulations on coming second in the English Open Men's event on the weekend! What was it like surfing back in the UK again?
Yeah, it was actually good, we had some pumping waves. It's nice not to come back to tiny waves! It kind of got smashed on Saturday, there were a lot of duck dives, a lot of paddling and then Sunday, it kind of just turned on. It was like the best Fistral really gets, for performance surfing. Surfing with all the boys was sick, kind of cold, but it was really cool!
That was the first priority event, at a Surfing England open comp, wasn't it?
Yeah, it worked out really well. On Saturday no one really used priority, you didn't need it because of how big the waves were and how many there were. But Sunday it was really crucial. This was, I think, why it came into Luke's hands at the end because he had priority over me. It was really cool to have priority for an English event.
What does it feel like to be part of the Surfing England and GB Surfing setup? You're 15, and now in a mixture of junior and adult divisions.
It feels really good to be in that situation right now because it is starting to grow. Like you said the American trip happened and there have been two Portugal trips, so to be in this position has been really cool. And it's sick to see all the surfing levels go up as well.
What's next for you?
We've actually got a British training camp on Sunday, in Hossegor, France so that'll be sick! Then I'm going straight to Casablanca, Morocco for a WSL Pro Junior, which is gonna be really fun. So hopefully I can just keep on going and keep surfing smart heats, and then I'm not really sure what's after that, but hopefully a couple more comps and trips.
Lukas wears the Black Camo Pink dryrobe® Advance