Matt Banting lacked something when he first came onto the radar. That something, it turns out, was the need to be liked. Which in itself is a good reason to like him. Another reason is that he is friendly and grounded. Another reason still is that he wins contests. Yesterday, the 19-year-old beat Nathan Hedge, 34, in the final of Newcastle’s six-star Surfest event. With two nines. The last event he won was the Australian Open in 2012, which was excellent, but not as sweet as this. “Each one gets better,” says Matt. “After winning the Australian Open I had this expectation, like, ‘I hope I get to win another contest, I hope I didn’t peak too early.'”
He didn’t peak to early. He ain’t peaked yet. Hungover as hell, and fresh from driving the wrong way down a Newcastle one-way street, Matt was concise in his thoughts on winning, losing, and whether he needs gymnastics to be a better surfer…
Stab: So, was yesterday the best competitive experience you’ve ever had?
Matt: Yes, f’sure. I worked a lot with Andy King and he was great, strategically.
What did he teach you? In my semi against Adriano de Souza… Andy’s worked a lot with Adriano, and he said, “Adriano always wants the inside of the peak to start the heat. He’ll be waiting for you to paddle out so he can take the inside of the peak.” And sure enough I could see him down there in the corner, just waiting, looking for me. So I just waited til there was two minutes to go, and he was stressing. So, little things like that.
What’s better when you win: Money, props, self achievement, after party? I love the whole hard-work-paid-off thing. The money’s obviously good. Like, you’re in the quarters and you’ve made three grand, and you’re going, “If I make one more, I’m jumping up to six-and-a-half,” y’know? It’s hard not to look at that. But just for your confidence, progressing… it’s so good to win in the QS.
Are you gonna qualify for 2015? Everyone gives the “taking it one contest at a time” answer. Gimme something else. It’s nerve-wracking. Being at the end of the year, needing a result… it’d be good to get it all done early in the year, and I hate that “one comp at a time” answer too, but Lowers is two months away and I really am just gonna focus on that next. I do wanna qualify. I haven’t been feeling ready for it the last three years. I’m getting there, but I’m not ready yet. Especially for places like Pipe and Teahupoo. I need to spend some time there getting used to throwing myself over the ledge.
Were you gonna do a Taj Burrow and, if you did qualify, turn it down due to lack of readiness? A lot of people say that, but if you got the spot, it’d be hard to knock it back, purely because it’s so hard to get on these days. But I don’t wanna get on there and get kicked off after my first year. I wanna get on there and have a good crack, like make top 10. Like Nat Young did, he fucking smashed it.
Are you ready for the world tour? Yeah, bloody oath, I’m still growing and getting stronger. I haven’t done any surf-specific training yet. So it’ll be good to get into that stuff. They’re getting pretty hi-tech with gymnastics. Though, it’s good to know I haven’t needed that yet.
What about John John’s school of thought: Training ain’t shit? Yeah, that’s the balance. It’s time spent in the water more than anything. And, a lot of stretching, keeping nimble. But John John’s are great steps to follow in.
I watched a recent surf training clip that featured flips onto a mattress. Can you actually feel results in your surfing from that, or is it all just placebo? Yesterday I surfed four heats and I was thinking, “Well, I’m fit enough.” I hadn’t trained for a week so my body was prepared. Training helps with your hand-eye co-ordination. And doing those flips, you get a better air awareness, so when you do a big loopy air-reverse you’re more comfortable. But still, you don’t really need to be doing that shit. You can just go out and do a few big punts.
That’s what I mean; Surely the best way to get air reverse awareness is to go do air reverses? Yeah, exactly. And like, (Craig) Ando and those guys, they won’t be doing any of that training shit. And they do massive things. Everyone’s different.
Does surfing come naturally to you? Or do you often think, “this part of my surfing needs work.” A lot of people get stressed out and do that. But like I said, the more time you spend in the water and be natural… you’ve gotta sort your boards and fins out mainly. That’s how I was feeling, I didn’t train for a week before Surfest. Like, In Manly I was trying to do little training sessions and keep fit the whole time (Matt got knocked in the round of 96 in the QS), but at Surfest I just made sure I was rested and stretched out and hydrated. In Manly I got sick with sunstroke, I was spewing my guts up. I’d surfed four heats in one day and I was fucked that night.
Ok, enough of that. What the fuck did you do last night? All the boys met up with Jake Sylvester and Ryan Callinan (the two locals in the event) and a few of their mates showed us around Newy. We went to the Prince and then King Street Hotel. Then back to the South African boys’ joint for a party, a few girls around and stuff. King Street was packed, bumping shoulders with everyone.
How was the wash up this morning? I couldn’t sleep in. Normally I’d sleep in a bit but I woke up this morning and just couldn’t stop thinking. Just buzzing still from yesterday. It was hard enough getting to sleep, and I woke up this morning still racing. Still on a high. It’s a weird feeling, but it’s that good. And, $40k in one week… beautiful. I’m that lucky. – Elliot Struck