19 September, 2016 19 September, 2016

Focus Trust Believe – The Whittaker Way

Llewellyn Whittaker is a surfer of steel. The Mossel Bay machine has travelled and competed around the world on the WQS, where he held rank in the Top 100. He has won the UK triple crown championship, taken (the then Quiksilver) Good Wave title, captained the SA Team, been titled SA Champ twice and if that’s not enough he (apparently) once got chowed by fifteen sharks… With Lu’s extensive experience travelling and competing around the world, it’s no wonder that today he is one of South Africa’s leading surf coaches.

‘Coach Lu’ has groomed the likes of some of SA’s top up-and-comers – Jordy Maree, Adin Masencamp, Kai Woolf, Max and Jake Elkington, just to name a few. He has become a pillar of South African junior surfing, heading junior comps like Boss of Moss and running his own successful surf school in Mossel Bay. Lu has been entrenched in the world of competitive surfing for as long as we can remember and has now started his own motivational brand according to the mantra he swears by – FOCUS. TRUST. BELIEVE.


Lu aiming high. Photo © Grant Scholtz

Zigzag: What was happening in your life when you discovered the mantra ‘focus, trust, believe’ and what prompted you to start your own surf brand with the same name?

Llewellyn: Well I was in a very negative relationship and I had a grade three tear in my knee when I decided to move to Wales. I just wanted to get out of Newquay, also the recession had started, my sponsors were drying up and it was nearly time to move back home. I got a job at an adventure company teaching surfing where I met the owner Nigel Jones. One of my very first lessons was with a young girl named Anabel Davies who’s Mom, Anita, was a Reiki. Young Annabel loved the lesson so much that Anita ended up phoning me to thank me and so our friendship began. Anita helped fix my knee and helped me repair my heart with different mantra’s, the last one being FOCUS. TRUST. BELIEVE.


Lu with unwavering focus in the tube.

Why did you start ‘Waves School Of Surfing’?

When I moved back from UK after finishing up on the WQS my plan was to start a surf school in Mossel bay. I always knew in the back of my mind I’d move back to my stomping ground. After I got back I met up with long time mate Liam Wood who gave me a DVD called Universal Energy – which is pretty much what FTB is. Then he introduced me to Jordy Maree, Ethan Fletcher and the Elkington brothers. From there WSS morphed into an advanced surfing school.


Lu’s familiar posse of stoked groms.

What do you think the future of SA surfing holds?

The future of surfing in South Africa needs many different elements to come together. There are too many factions each trying to “fix” surfing. The different elements are things like events, we need more Junior events and we need more WSL events like it used to be in the late 80’s and through the 90’s. Surfing in South Africa needs all the key role players to come together and have one joint vision for the future.


Lu pictured with the UCT Surf Club.

So what should we be focusing on?

Another huge element would be to improve the depth of junior surfing in SA from the bottom up, which is my passion. This way you improve the level of the elite surfers by getting more intermediate and advanced surfers, if you can get intermediate to advanced surfers kicking the elite kids’ butts they cannot get complacent and take on the ‘big fish small pond’ syndrome. However, in saying this, the kids coming through the ranks, who are at the top of their game are all potentially WSL surfers and can make the tour.


Lu – born for the barrel.

What are the biggest challenges facing young surfers today? How do you address those through your mantra: ‘Focus, Trust, Believe’?

The biggest challenge these days is the currency exchange rate and that there is not a big enough local tour to spring board the kids onto the international arena. As South Africans we have more challenges than most of the Americans, Europeans and Australians although they too still have their own. But this is what makes us proudly South African, the bottom line is that if you Focus, Trust and Believe you can make it happen. You just have to be willing to do what ever it takes to make your dream come true. For example in Australia I was a brick work labourer, in Hawaii I was a gardener With Richard Sills for Pancho Sullivan (WCT surfer), Rochelle Ballard and seven time world champion Layne Beachley. The funniest job I had on tour was swinging a bagel sign on highway 101 in Solana beach, Southern California watching Robb Machado giving me shakas while they were heading off for surfs at Blacks beach. But here in lies the beauty of FTB – by doing these things you meet amazing people who help you see your ambition, your passion and your drive and they help you along the way.


Lu in action at the invite-only RVCA Supertrial in Jeffrey’s Bay © AvG.

Surfing competitively or coaching? Which is more fulfilling?

They are both very fulfilling, there is nothing like the feeling of winning an event or a title. I use contests to learn from so that I can keep my teaching fresh and new. As a coach you generally coach from experience so I like to create new experiences through maintaining a high level of competitiveness. But seeing one of your students win an event or do really well, brings me a lot of happiness and makes my job worthwhile.


Lu giving a lesson in pig dogging.

What has been the highlight of your surfing career?

One of the highlights of my career was definitely winning the 2003 Good Wave. In the final was WCT surfers Greg Emslie and Paul Canning as well as Simon Nicholson who in 2002 missed the WCT by one spot. So it was a huge win for someone who was once told “you will never win a contest.” So without me even knowing FTB was already working for me. There are a few other competitive highlights such as winning the UK Triple Crown in 2007 before moving home, then being selected to Captain the SA team to the World Championships and getting the highest heat score on day one.


Lu for the win at the UK Triple Crown.

And the highlight of your coaching career?

As for my coaching career coaching the SA team three times has been a huge highlight and allowed me to learn so much. The third time I coached the SA team in Peru with Quinton Jones we got the SA team to win a Silver Medal and a Bronze in the Tag team. But the coaching is a generational job, watching the kids grow as individual characters and watching them all achieve great things at different stages of their development are all major highlights for me, so it’s an ongoing highlights reel.


The Open Men’s final SA Champs 2016.

What have been the biggest challenges of starting your own surf brand? And what is the future for FTB?

FTB is not a surf brand, it’s a motivational brand with its roots in surfing. This brand is for everyone, even the corporate businessman, when he’s doing his top button on his FTB shirt he says “today I will make that deal” or the mountain biker who’s hit the brick wall and he’s 5km’s from winning the race and he looks down and sees FTB on his cycling shorts. That’s what this brand is about, it’s about the meaning behind the words and it’s about being a part of something universal. The future of FTB is to spread the word and encourage people to achieve great things.

*For more info on FOCUS TRUST BELIEVE visit Lu’s website HERE and follow on Facebook HERE. Check out the latest FTB launch press release HERE.

*Lead Image By: Wayne Tourell

*Images Supplied

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