Luke Shepardson is well known in North Shore circles for being a composed kid. While many refer to him as "Laidback Luke Shepardson," his big-wave surfing is anything but.
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On Wednesday afternoon the 20-year-old North Shore local took part in the biggest Waimea Bay session in years. How big was it? Well, big enough to close the bay out a couple times and big enough to toss Kelly Slater and Ross Williams back on the beach. Shepardson, however, not only survived a massive closeout set, he also caught a handful of waves, including the above bomb, which was the best of the day.
Some may recall Shepardson for scoring a perfect 10 during the 2015 Pipe Invitational. Given his young age, we figured he's somebody we'll be hearing about for years to come and it was time we got to know him.
WSL: What was the scariest part of your session at the Bay? What was the highlight? What was the reaction when you hit the beach?
Luke Shepardson The scariest part was when the one huge wave came through and cleaned everyone up. I was paddling over a wave and before I got over it I saw the next one break way out the back. I scratched towards the channel and swam under it. I'm glad my leash or board didn't break. The highlight of my session was like my fourth or fifth wave. I took off and air-dropped two times on the wave. I thought I was gonna fall but I just stayed as centered as possible and I pulled it. I thought I was gonna fall for sure. When I got to the beach everyone started clapping and cheering. I was super stoked!
WSL: Tell us about your 10 at Pipe during the trials. Big deal for you? Or just another day at the office?
Shepardson It felt amazing. It was the deepest barrel I got at Pipe. I didn't think I was going to make it when I pulled in. I just did one big pump and held on and luckily came flying out. I was on the foamball and I thought it was gonna eat me but the wave spit and pushed me out. If it wasn't in the contest I don't think it would have been as big for me but since it was in the contest and a lot of people were watching it was pretty big for me. But other then that, yeah it was just another wave ridden and I gotta keep trying to get more.
The scariest part was when the one huge wave came through and cleaned everyone up.
WSL: Who were your biggest influences growing up on the North Shore, and why?
Shepardson Andy Irons, Kelly Slater, Sion Milosky, Bruce Irons, Nathan Fletcher, Liam McNamara. I watched all those guys surf and I've always wanted to be able to surf like them. Liam helps me out a lot. He has taken me around the world to surf perfect waves with Makai and Landon. He also got me started in contests, if it wasn't for him I probably wouldn't have been in the trials.
WSL: How early on did you realize you were into the big wave thing?
Shepardson When I was really little I thought I would never surf big waves. But when I was around 12 I started wanting to try. When I was 14 I had my first session at Pinballs on a single-fin 9'2" and that's when I got hooked. It was only 10 feet but it seemed huge to me (laughs).
WSL: Scenario: You're headed to Mars, but you can only take three movies. What are they?
Shepardson (Laughs) Three movies to Mars? The Sandlot. The Bruce Movie. And The Bomb (Liam's Pipe movie).
WSL: Same scenario as above and you get to bring the full collection of three musical artists, who would they be?
Shepardson Bob Marley, 2pac, Neil Young.
WSL: If you could chill with any person you want -- dead or alive -- for an entire day, who would you pick and why?
Shepardson Bruce Lee, because I would want to learn how to be as in tune with my body as he was.
What's been the toughest day of your life?
Shepardson Maybe when I popped a piece of my lung snowboarding. I thought I just got the wind knocked out of me at first, so I went home took a nap a woke up with a super bad pain in my chest. I went to the doctor and before he did test he said it might be something that needs surgery and I might never be able to surf again and I got super scared. But then I did the test and it was just a little piece of my lung.
WSL: If your 40-year-old self could give you some advice right now, what do you think it would be? And would you listen?
Shepardson I would probably tell myself take chances but be smart. Go forward with eyes open and no fear. That's what my dad tells me and I listen. It helps.
WSL: Goals for your surfing career?
Shepardson To win the Eddie, a Triple Crown title, and the Pipe Masters, and to be able to surf big waves around the world.