Now Unlocked: Torrey Meister Grabs Life By The Horns In 'Grit n Water' - Stab Mag
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Now Unlocked: Torrey Meister Grabs Life By The Horns In ‘Grit n Water’

What’s scarier — bull riding or big wave surfing?

Words by Michael Ciaramella

Torrey Meister isn’t scared by much

A Backdoor ‘closeout’ that no one else wants? Minor. A windy Jaws bomb on a busted ankle? That’s kiddie stuff.

But when you take a man out of his natural element — which for Torrey, is the ocean — the world becomes a much more frightening place. Especially when there’s a raging bull involved.

In his first true profile film, Grit n Water, Torrey surfs at a level that can only be described as psychotic, then goes on to confront his lifelong fear of riding a horned steer. The piece is set to the tune of country-western pop ballads and narrated by Nashville’s own Kip Moore. A strange ingredient list for a surf film if ever we’ve seen one, but the end product is both savory and nutritious. Once digested, you’ll want to go back for seconds.

We chatted with Torrey briefly to discuss the film, the concept of fear, and what in god’s name made him straddle that cattle.

Torrey Meister makes friends with a local vagrant.

Stab: Hey Torrey! The waves you surf in Grit-n-Water lead me to believe that you’re a very brave man. But using country-western music in a surf film is truly fearless. What inspired this bold choice?
Torrey Meister: [laughs] That’s just what I listen to! Actually, the stuff I used in this film is pretty mellow. If I included the songs that I listen to when I’m at home alone, well, it would have been way worse. I chose the songs that most of my friends tend to complain about less. But at the end of the day, this is my first real film where it’s just me, and I wanted it to reflect my personal interests — not just the current surf industry trends or whatever.

Fair enough. And the surfing backs it up. I almost forgot how much of a psycho you were until I saw all those Backdoor waves back-to-back. Do you just paddle out there on wash-through days and tell yourself to go on closeouts that occasionally aren’t closeouts?
[Laughs] Kinda. I do tend to get my best waves when no one else is looking right. I guess I’d rather take my chances with the waves out there than the crowd when it’s five foot I can’t get a wave at Backdoor [laughs]. And my lefts definitely suffer because I can’t get myself to fight for the same waves as everybody else.

Well whatever you’re doing out there, it’s working. Now talk to me about this bull riding thing. What the hell was that?
That’s something that I’ve always wanted to do. I grew up around horses and other livestock, so it’s always been in my periphery. And I always had so much respect for the people who ride bulls. Then when Dan [Norkunas] and I started making this film, and we decided it was gonna be Western-themed, I knew I had to do it. I basically used the film as an excuse to face a life-long fear and cross it off my bucket list.

So what was that experience like? And how does riding a bull compare to big wave surfing?
It was so much fun. As soon as we left, I was like, ‘Man, I want to do that again.’ It was also terrifying [laughs]. But so much fun.

There are actually a ton of similarities between bull riding and big wave surfing. There’s obviously the fear factor, but I mean from a technical level, there’s the rescue team that is there to jump in and save you if you get in a bad position. And then in the PBR, which is the WSL of bull riding, they have a 100 point judging scale. The bull is judged from 1-50, and the rider is judged from 1-50, and those numbers are combined for your total score. So if you get a crappy bull, you can ride the crap out of it but you’re still gonna get an average score. The same is true with surfing — you need to be on the best waves to get high scores. Then there’s the eight-second thing too. Just like in surfing, if you want to get a good score, you need to complete the ride. You can’t just fall off at the beginning.

Grit-n-Water premiere, San Diego, CA.

Now that you’ve both surfed Jaws and ridden a bull, which is scarier?
I’d say riding the bull. But that could be because it’s not really my element. I feel so at home in the ocean, there’s almost a sense of peace. I’ll just go, because I think deep down, I feel like if I die doing that, it’s fine. It’s where I’m meant to go. But riding a bull is a fully different story.

Plus, surfing is so much more reactionary. You see a wave and make a split-second decision to go. In bull riding, it’s all premeditated. You set the day and the time, you get on the back of the thing, and you nod your head for them to open the gate. In surfing there’s almost no time to think about what you’re doing.

I can see that. To be fair though, I don’t think we’ll see any PBR guys surfing Jaws anytime soon.
I don’t know, a lot of them are Brazilian.

Fair enough. So what’s next? Surfing over any exposed rocks in the near future?
Funny you should ask that. I just got more slammed than I have in years attempting while a rock jump for an O’Neill wetsuit shoot. My back and ass are completely purple. I can hardly sit, let alone surf.

Survives Jaws, Backdoor, The Cave, and a bull, but gets taken out by a little rock hop. Ain’t that life. Well heal up, Torrey. Thanks for the film and a chat!
Ride on, cowboy.

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