Aussie rising star Matt Banting speaks
Ever since the ASP cut the number of surfers on the World Tour from 44 to 32 in 2010, the top spots on the World Qualification Series have become extremely contentious. Getting to the big leagues is harder than ever.
Also, guys don't retire at 30 anymore. There are five surfers of those 32 who won't let go of those slots, enjoying 15-year (or longer) residencies. The top of the rankings is a nice place to be, but there's also some stress that comes from knowing everyone is gunning for you.
Sitting in the No. 2 slot right now on the qualifying tour is Australian Matt "Matty" Banting. Banting, 20, hails from Port Macquarie, New South Wales. Even when he was "King of the Groms" he didn't look like your typical skin-and-bones flyweight, and has since sculpted himself into quite the athlete. This year, he won the 6-star Toyota Burton Pro and Los Cabos Open of Surf, backing it up with a win at the Vans U.S. Open Junior. But his most impressive performance to date was clearly the 2012 Australian Open, where he won both the prestigious Open and the Juniors.
Despite the high cost of entry, Banning is one surfer you may see on the ASP World Tour one day.
XGames.com: It's funny when you're a junior and you get introduced to the world as "Matty," like you're this little kid. In Hawaii, it would be "Matty Boy," Sometimes that sticks with you, like "John John." Do you feel like you're Matt Banting now?
Matt Banting: I've been called a lot worse, so it's alright being called Matty. Ha. No, I know what you mean. A lot of my friends call me MB or a couple of my friends also call me 'Pab', short for Pablo, a Brazilian name. They say I've got that Brazilian froth when it comes to surfing and getting waves.
For American surf fans that might not know you that well, tell us a little bit about yourself. What do you do outside of surfing? What else is important to you?
I love spending time with my family while I'm back home in Australia, because I'm only home about three months of the year. But other than that, I love training in the gym. My friends and I have been going down to the local skatepark a lot in the last six months. It's good cross training for surfing using the same muscles. We keep pushing each other, then, I'm like, "Aye! Whoa, don't hurt yourself!" The park is right on the water. We used to skate and surf a lot all together as kids so it's good to bring back those memories and relive it like a little kid again. Still get the same amount of froth!
Your first win this year was at the Toyota Burton Pro. You beat out Billy Stairmand, who is having a great year, world title competitor Adriano de Souza and Nathan Hedge. Talk us through that victory.
Yes, it was definitely unexpected, but I guess all wins are like that. I had a really bad contest before that one in Manly, which made me go home and reevaluate things and get right into some training. It kind of set me straight for the year. Then in the event, I was in the semis with Adriano de Souza. He's probably one of the hardest guys to beat in good-to-average waves. I was thinking that I had a big task in front of me. But everything came together, thank God. It's funny how life works! I made close to $50,000 that week and got home thinking, "Wow, it'd be amazing to ever do that again."
So you've had great results at Mereweather Beach, Zippers in Cabo, and Snapper Rocks. You're really into the right points?
Yea, these right points have been very good to me this year. Ha. I've been working a lot more on completing my surfing, going back to the basics and just trying to not put too much pressure on myself. It was good to know at the start of the year I signed a really nice three-year deal with Quiksilver and to have that financial backing puts the mind to rest a little. But you still know that you need to get the job done or else you won't have any of these opportunities in the following years.
You didn't do the Volcom Pipeline Pro. Tell me about that decision.
Yeah, I spent a month in Hawaii just a couple of months before that. And that event was only a 5-star event, so you have to make the final to get any worthy points to add to your WQS campaign. In Hawaii, doing that is a hard task, so I thought I'd save money and time and prepare for the rest of the year a bit better.
Your sponsor gave you a few wildcards to the Quik Gold Coast Pro. What's it like when you go back to surfing against one of your buddies after you just faced Mick [Fanning]?
Yes, Quik gave me the wildcard in 2012. Then 2013, I wasn't in it. But this year, one week after winning the Newcastle Surfest event, I was in the trials for the Quik Pro, which they run in one day. I ended up winning it. Then I was in the contest against [Kelly] Slater the next day. But like you said, surfing in front of that big of an arena on the WCT definitely relieves the pressure of going back down a level and surfing against the guys you're used to surfing against. One of my friends recently said, "It's taken you two years to reach the top of the WQS, hopefully it takes you the same to properly adapt to the WCT."
When you watch an event at a venue like Teahupoo, are you thinking "Wow, I may have to surf that wave next year." It must feel like a big jump, eh?
Definitely! Watching the webcast at home, I was like, "Woah, if I was there... you've just gotta go." There's no other option, just give it your all and see what you come away with. But there'd definitely be some sleepless nights. Ha. I've got some close friends who live in Tahiti and Hawaii who have offered for me to come stay and show me the ropes. I might have to take them up on it soon. Do a few trips to Fiji as well and just get used to the powerful reefs.