Zander Morton: Joel Luteran Interview
Meet The Underground Florida Grom Making A Name For Himself In Hawaii
by: Zander Morton
15-Year-Old Joel Luteran is taking off an every wave he can find at Pipe and Waimea
Saint Augustine, Florida’s Joel Luteran has been in Hawaii for 2 months, paddling out at Pipe and Waimea every time either breaks, and absolutely packing bombs. At 15, Joel is in the middle of the most impressive Hawaii performance out of a young east coaster since Brett Barley did the same thing at Luteran’s age.
Every swell, Luteran pushes himself a little further. He was the first one in the lineup everyday when the Pipe Masters ended. The last one to the beach the day Jaws ran; rolling through from the outside on a bomb as the swell started to max out, and packing a huge closeout on the first reef. Too big? Too crowded? Doesn’t matter; Luteran is out there.
Last week, with Waimea pushing Eddie-size, Luteran paddled out and swung on one of the biggest waves of the day, a 20-foot bomb from deep on the reef. And the craziest part? He did it without wearing any sort of flotation. One of only a few surfers in the water that day without a vest.
Wanting to hear more about Luteran’s maniacal run, I gave him a ring. When I called, he was in the middle of waxing up a new board and watching the Volcom Pipe Pro, getting psyched for another surf at Pipeline as soon as the comp ends.
I was talking to Jimmy Wilson about you recently, and he told me he watched you paddle out during your first session of the winter at big Log Cabins in December and just send it on everything that came your way. Apparently Noah Beschen, and a couple other local kids, were tripping. What was your mindset going into Hawaii this year?
Joel: That’s really cool, that’s awesome. But yeah, pretty much since the first day I got here my attitude was just that I wanted to go on every single wave I can get. I know nobody is going to give me a bomb in Hawaii so I just have to start at the bottom and work my way up. That’s what I’ve been doing.
Are you doing any sort of training?
I’ve been going to the gym, but mainly I’ve just been surfing as much as I can, and doing breath holding exercises.
Is the breath holding helping you with your confidence?
Yeah, definitely. But the best thing for my confidence is just going out and surfing big waves. Every time I take another beating I realize I can handle it, which helps me push myself a little bit further.
Where have you been staying? And who are you surfing with?
I’ve been staying with my Uncle John Begley, and he’s been showing me the ropes, basically. Having him here is so awesome. And then I also have a few close friends in Hawaii and we’re always surfing together at Pipe and everywhere else.
Where have you gotten your best wave of the winter so far?
Pipe, for sure.
Speaking of Pipe, you’re following in the footsteps of east coasters like the Hobgoods, The Lopezes, and Brett Barley, who all started rushing Pipe at your age. Is the crew out at Pipe starting to recognize you?
Yeah, I really look up to what those guys did in Hawaii. And I am getting recognized a little more now, definitely by the local kids that all sit together on the inside pack. I’ve also talked to Kalani [Chapman] a few times, he’s been really cool. I’m mainly just trying to prove to everyone that I’ll go on anything; that’s the best way to eventually get a bomb.
You’re riding the waves you are getting really well. Is it fair to say Vilano [a shorebreak wave in Florida] helped you prepare for Pipe in some ways?
100 percent. Surfing Vilano helped prepare me for Pipe in a lot of ways. First, because it’s steep and forces you to take-off late, under the lip, and make quick decisions. But also because it’s always crowded. Vilano taught me to stay in line and pay my dues and be cool to everyone, and then just go on any wave I can possibly get. That’s the same attitude I have at Pipe. I take every wave I can get. And not, like, take them from other people, because I’m just scrapping for anything. But, I basically just go on every wave that someone else backs down from no matter what it looks like.
What’s been your worst wipeout?
That’s tough, because I’ve gotten smashed on the reef so many times. But my worst was probably the morning they ran the Jaws comp, when the swell was picking up. I rolled into this one from the second reef, pulled in, and just got annihilated. I hit the reef so hard, it was crazy. But fortunately none of my wipeouts have been too bad. I have broken 8 boards since I’ve been here though [laughs].
How about that wave you caught at Waimea? That was an Eddie-sized drop. And you took off super deep. Talk to me about that.
That was definitely one of the bigger sets of the day. Everyone was scraping to get outside, and so was I, but then I saw that nobody else was gonna try to catch that wave, so I just swung and went. It was a crazy drop. It felt like an air drop, because it was so over vertical. Waimea is like a big slab, and the drops are nuts. People don’t realize that just from looking at pictures.
I made the drop, but I was super deep, and the lip pretty much landed on my head. I don’t want to say how long I was under, because it’s really hard to say since it was happening to me. But it was definitely the longest and scariest hold down of my life. I was using an 11-foot Jaws leash that day, and luckily it didn’t break, because I used it to climb back to the surface.
Crazy. How are you controlling your fears on a day like that?
Every single time I take off on a big wave I’m crapping my pants [laughs]. But I guess I’m just trying to turn my fear into motivation. Like, I know the worst can happen and I just have to accept that. But I don’t let that get in my head, because I don’t want that to keep me from going after the wave of my life.
Do you have an inflation vest yet?
No, I don’t. But I’ve been OK at Waimea without one. That said, it’s not like an ego thing or anything. I’m not trying to prove a point. I just don’t have one [laughs]. If I did, I would definitely wear it.
What is your goal? Honestly, you’re one of the hardest charging 15-year-olds out there right now. Have you thought about pursuing the Big Wave World Tour eventually?.
I’ve thought a little about that, but the jump from Pipeline to waves like Jaws is pretty big. I was talking to Torrey [Meister] about Jaws, and he was telling me about how long the hold downs at Jaws actually are. I would definitely need to start training harder for that. At Pipeline the hold downs aren’t too bad; it’s really more about how intense of a wipeout your body can handle. For now, I just want to get the wave of my life at Pipe, and then we’ll see what happens. Like I was saying, my goal is just to take off on every wave that I get the opportunity to catch.