LUKE DITELLA: Professional Surfer, Model, and Manifester of Dreams

Luke Ditella. Photo: Hunter DeNicola

Luke Ditella. Photo: Hunter DeNicola

I first saw Luke Ditella surf years back at a team challenge contest down in Atlantic City, this was probably in the late 90s, possibly early 2000s. Luke’s surfing was determined, fast, smooth, and confident. The conditions were less than perfect, with hard side shore winds, but the ocean was offering up some chest high punchy bowls. As I free surfed on the other side of the jetty, I watched Luke on each of his waves. Fast down the line conviction, coming off the bottom and off the top in perfect form, ending each wave with a big turn or air on the inside. Simply stated, he was annihilating it, and honestly made an impression on me that day.

I never got to know Luke, at the time I started to drift away from contest surfing, moving away from the surfing world in general, and I was focused more on playing music. Luke continued on his competitive path and began to make a solid name for himself in New Jersey and beyond. Many years after that contest down in Atlantic City, I saw him surfing a local break here in Monmouth County, and his surfing had only progressed leaps and bounds beyond the first time I saw him. Supreme style, great fundamentals, and he could fly in the air with ease.

With each swell here in New Jersey, photo galleries pop up on all the various surf media outlets, and you can be sure Ditella will have a solid tube shot. Yet I started to see Luke popping up even more frequently in another world, the world of modeling. It appeared to me that Luke had become an overnight success, with his stark good looks and his beard of monolithic proportions. Bottom line, the guy was blowing up.

There has always been an air of mystery surrounding Luke Ditella and the more I read his words via social media, I felt there was something much deeper to touch on beyond good looks and solid surfing. So I reached out to Luke to conduct an interview and he was kind enough to get this done in the midst of a busy schedule.

Read on and you will find an inspiring story of a fellow human being who will never be satisfied with mediocrity. A story of someone who is driven from his heart, following his dreams to their fullest manifestation.

 

 

Tell us a bit about what your childhood was like and what are some of your fondest memories of your early years?

It was great. I didn’t grow up with much in the material sense. My parents struggled a bit. But, I was always given a ton of love, support, and freedom. We were never broke, but there were some tough times. I feel as though that sort of situation helps to shape your perspective properly. You learn to appreciate things and give gratitude to the universe for everything. My parents couldn’t do the normal “night out” like most parents. So, they would sit around our dining room table, have drinks… either with just each other or have friends over and blast music. My upbringing was music. Not TV. I could not be more appreciative for that. My friends growing up were the Stones, Fogerty, Muddy Waters, Bach, Bruce, Clapton etc.

What initially drew you to the ocean and how did you start surfing? 

My father was in the Navy. He was always a waterman. Not in the surfing sense. In the sailing, diving, swimming, and understanding weather patterns, currents sense. When we moved to Jersey from VT, the first thing he did was take me swimming in the ocean. He always told me the water keeps you young. (In retrospect, he never said anything truer). Not long after, I started riding a body board. Right away, I stood up on it. The lifeguards in Ocean City that we became friendly with saw me doing this and told my parents and my sister, “Get him a surfboard. Now. He’ll make a living from it.” So, when I was 8, my grandfather bought me a board for my birthday.  I was fucking terrified of it. I can’t really recollect why. I’ll guess because it was new and it was this big, bulky thing. I kept making up excuses for years why I would’t ride it. Until one day, my father just said “Look, your grandfather bought you this to use. It was expensive. You’re gonna try it at least once.” That day, we went down to the beach just him and I and I went for it. First wave, it was all over. I’ll never forget how fast I went and how pumped he was. He was borderline crying.

When people are thinking of professional surfers, I highly doubt that New Jersey is a place that first comes to mind. That said, the state produces a lot of solid surfers and a nice crop of paid professionals. When did you realize you could make a living surfing and what was the course you took to manifest that dream? 

One thing my parents did instill in me was the idea that I could always accomplish whatever I wanted to. I never set out on any specific path. I had a lot going against me. I was a bit of a rebel child. In the sense that I partied growing up and didn’t care who I pissed off. I had my own opinions and did what made me happy. That rubbed a few of the already established pro surfers from Jersey the wrong way. So of course, my behavior was reported to my sponsors. Luckily, there were a few people who always saw through it all and realized the reason I behaved the way I did. Not to sound self absorbed or cocky whatsoever, but, I think that I was a case of talent surpassing circumstance. Because, a lot of the time, I look back and honestly have no idea how anyone stuck by me. But, the one thing I always did was believe in my talent and myself. My consistency winning contests, bigger contests,  I think, is the one thing that over shined my behavior.

Your parents had a huge impact on your life, there was a closeness and support that was very profound. Over the past few years you’ve lost both your parents and I can only imagine what a painful ordeal that was. Yet it seems in the face of such pain, you’ve found inspiration where others would possibly only find suffering. Tell us about your parents, how they influenced your life, and how you honor them now through your own life? 

Man. This question, if I answered it correctly, would become a novel. I’ll keep it simple. My parents were just these two incredible beaming souls. They accepted everyone to start with open arms and open hearts. They always were giving more than they had.

In their moving on, I learned that we as humans have the ability to make ANY event a positive growth period in your life. As humans, we are taught to cling to the tangible, human form. If you are in touch with yourself, your surroundings, and the universe, you realize that our time in the physical world is a fraction of our soul’s journey. That said, I still feel my parents, see their signs, and talk to them everyday. By talk to them, I mean that I actually talk, out loud, like a crazy person. My close friends and family saw the growth I went through in losing my Mom and Dad and everyone has started to have more of an open mind spiritually. I’m honoring them now by putting my head down and taking my dreams. Not talking about them. Not calling them just dreams. I’m looking at what I want (dreams) and approaching them as though they are my reality. In turn, they are becoming my reality. I’ll never stop. It’s all for them now. Not just for myself.

Over the past few years your career trajectory has changed from surfing to modeling. From what I gather, the modeling career path is really taking off for you. What was the impetus for the change, how was the transition, and what is the modeling industry like?

What most people don’t realize is that I had been doing modeling jobs off and on since I was younger. But, because social media wasn’t really present then, it was rare anyone saw my work. It became more of a full time thing because I was scouted by a film casting director in New York. My goal has always been acting. Those types of opportunities (acting) are starting to come through. The modeling goes hand in hand most of the time in the sense that it gives you exposure and experience on set. Being directed, critiqued, broken down. Due to my exposure from the modeling, acting and social world, my surfing career is still as good as it’s ever been. Which is such a crazy thing to see. That industry is similar to any other. You have your fakes and egos, your friends and foes.

Luke Ditella. Deleon Tequila Campaign.

Luke Ditella. Deleon Tequila Campaign.

You’ve landed some pretty solid gigs most recently, you’re certainly not approaching this half ass. Tell us who you are working with at the moment and how all these pieces have been coming together for you? 

Well, I have the best team around me. My management, booking agents and PR are amazing. There’s a lot of projects happening at the moment but not many I can speak about. I have to sign NDA’s (non disclosure agreements) for the majority of my work. Lately, a lot of my work is channeled through someone finding me through my social media outlets.

With traveling and working, you still are making time for your surfing. Do you still consider yourself a professional surfer or are you just surfing for fun now?

Well, I’m still on salary from sponsors and I still make sure to get coverage when there’s a swell. So, that would be a yes. I think once the fun leaves surfing, you’re fucked. When I was so focused on just that, surfing for money, there were times that I was miserable. But now, I love it! I’m so thankful to be able to surf. Let alone get paid to do it.

You have been inspired and implement the metaphysical “Laws of Manifestation” in your life. What turned you on to them and what has been your personal process? 

It was just my spiritual growth that led me to it. I had family in Todd and Megan DiCiurcio who always were able to manifest their reality. I never really paid much mind to it. I somewhat thought people were always a victim of their circumstances and I couldn’t have been more wrong. If anyone ever questions manifestation or that your thoughts become your reality, use me as evidence. One thing I NEVER believed is that we were put into human form to be unhappy five days a week to only enjoy two. That is simply just this man made ideal that is so fucking wrong. Don’t misconstrue what I’m saying. There’s people that work 80 hours a week and LOVE what they are doing. But that’s just it. They are LOVING it. Not working some job they hate doing because they’re told that’s how life works.

Do you find surfing to have a spiritual dimension to it? What do you love most about the pursuit of riding waves? 

Absolutely. It’s one of the few times where you can literally free yourself. It has always been spiritual to me, but has become much more powerful since my parents moved on. Now, when I surf, I feel them. I feel my dad clapping and hooting. I feel a connection.

Tell us about your last surf session? 

Yesterday, in Deal NJ. It was packed. A group of old timers that haven’t surfed in forever came out and were just pumped. No matter where you are mentally and spiritually, crowds…. especially clueless summer crowds, can piss anyone off. But, these guys just lightened the mood. Wave were small but fun.

What do you see coming down the line for yourself in way of your professional life and your personal life? Where would you like to see yourself in 5 years?

Getting married next year to my soul’s counter part is by far the thing I am looking forward to most. As far as my professional life, I have a lot of business partnerships that are being brought into fruition. Seaweed and Gravel, which I own with my partner Dave Patri in Encinitas, Ca, will hopefully be expanding to more locations. I’m in the mix for a lead in movie and working on some other business ideas I’ve always had. With my social media, I am able to prove a marketing strategy and brand that sells. It has given me a platform to show hard evidence that my ideas and image are financially beneficial. In five years, I see us (Melissa and myself) living our life much like we do now, free, healthy and happy….just with a lot more in the bank.

Any last thoughts you would like to share with the readers?

Do not listen to anyone that ever tells you how life has to be. The most successful people come from the most meager of starts. ALWAYS trust yourself and your inner voice. Love yourself first and to hell with anyone that tells you what works and what doesn’t. YOU are the creator of YOUR life. NOT society.

By Carter McCoy

Photo: Carter McCoy

Photo: Mike Incitti

Photo: Mike Incitti

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Photo: Connor Halpin

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Growing up in New Jersey, Shawn discovered and quickly immersed himself in the sub-culture of surfing and skateboarding in the mid 80’s. With a diverse and eclectic background, Shawn has walked the path of a competitive surfer, Hare Krsna monk, action sports industry player in NYC, DIY theology and religions major, and a touring punk rock musician. Now a father and self-proclaimed seeker of the “soul” of surfing, Shawn enjoys sessions with friends at uncrowded peaks along his home state’s shoreline and writing about his surf related experiences.

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