It Takes a Village: Luke Ditella on his Major Key


When you think “New Jersey,” you probably don’t immediately think of surfing. Sopranos, slot machines, The Boss, sure. But surfing?

Yet that’s where Luke Ditella first developed his love of ocean swells and waxed boards — and where he rose to prominence by winning surf contest after contest. Thanks to a burgeoning modeling career, Ditella now might be more well-known for his impeccably groomed beard and smoldering looks than his killer tube rides, but we chatted with Ditella to hear who he credits with his success across surfing, modelling, and his various entrepreneurial endeavors. Turns out that family is a major key.

Flavorwire: Who was your mentor/teacher/coach that helped you to greatness?

Luke Ditella: There were several. The most poignant were my late father, [friend and artist] Todd DiCiurcio, and my sister. All equally amazing, but three completely different views. Combined, they’ve sculpted my approach.

What makes them so remarkable?

My father for his work ethic. Despite not having a lot of material possessions, he had the biggest heart and appreciation for life. My sister has the most grounded approach, and has been successful in everything she has ever done. Todd is remarkable because of his overall belief that you are able to manifest your dreams and reality. I’m much more of a free-thinker than my parents and sister, in the sense that your thoughts create your reality, and that you ultimately are in control. Todd taught me that at a very young age. I 100% believe that our thoughts create our world.

How did you and Todd meet?

Todd, I met when I was surfing when I was 8 years old. He saw me at a local surfing beach and immediately told my parents that I would be a pro surfer. He was right. From then on, he and his now wife were always advising me.

What’s your relationship like with these mentors? How have their lessons influenced you?

I am still extremely close to my sister and Todd. My father, who is no longer physically with us, I am closer to now more than ever.

I’ve used their advice and lessons in numerous ways. I usually follow my sister’s approach when things seem too good to be true, to keep myself from getting too carried away… I channel my father when I get frustrated with people and need to remind myself how fortunate I am to have the life I do. I appreciate the smallest things when I replay his words. Todd has helped me to remind myself that whatever I am doing is a direct result of my thinking and doing. That keeps any negative thoughts from becoming prevalent.

Photo by Ryan & Genessa

So were these people most influential creatively, or with your surfing, or just in general?

I don’t think any of them specifically tried to consult with me on any one thing. More of an overall life approach. I’m an amalgam of all three of them. I use their words, advice, and approach every single day in everything I do.

Was there a specific lesson or piece of advice you found particularly valuable?

Everything they’ve bestowed is equally valuable, at different times. It depends on the situation and what is called for. There are very few things that happen where something one of them has said hasn’t shot right into my head.

How does their advice resonate in your work today? What’s the lasting influence?

I live my sister’s advice in the fact that I don’t take shit from anyone. I know my worth, and I can sense when someone is trying to take advantage of me. My father, his appreciation for everything still resonates with me. Every day, I make sure to express gratitude for whatever it is that may be happening. Todd’s lessons in manifesting the things you want to do and have are part of my daily habits.

Do you keep in touch?

My father passed away a few years ago. But I talk to him everyday. He’s with me in all that I do and is my driving force for my accomplishments. My sister lives with her family in Portsmouth, New Hampshire, and we talk or text almost everyday. Todd lives just over the bridge from me in Brooklyn with his wife, Megan. Happily, we too, talk almost everyday.

Photo by Connor Halpin

This interview has been lightly edited and condensed for length. In our Major Key editorial series, we talk with today’s most forward-thinking creators about their mentors, teachers, and inspirational figures who coached them towards greatness. #MyMajorKey is brought to you by Microsoft Surface.