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9. Matt’s Story - Waves and My Journey to Pro

Waves and My Journey to Pro

THE FIRST BIG STEP

My journey started in the turbulence of South Africa, but it wasn’t long before my parents decided that my sister and I should grow up with a lifestyle that was safe and free from prejudice, so we immigrated to New Zealand when I was five. They arrived with two small children, knowing no one; it was a really tough time for us, starting all over again, and my dad worked two jobs to ensure we had a roof over our head and food on the table. My parents are my heroes because of what they sacrificed to give us a better life. I’m a proud kiwi, but I will always have a place for South Africa in my heart.

EXCELLING EARLY

I was competitive from a young age and found passion in all my sports, so my parents made sure we had every opportunity to excel and taught us to always give 110%. My lifesaving skills flourished as I spent Summers down at the surf club training, and I made the New Zealand U16 team. In Winter I was on the rugby field, where I was a representative and captain. Although I’d spent most of my life in the ocean, it wasn’t until I was fourteen that I picked up a surfboard.

FINDING SURFING

My parents felt I needed a rest from team sports, so surfing was the ideal outlet. My natural drive and competitive spirit suited surfing perfectly; the international scene soon came calling, and when I was 17 I won the National Open Men’s Surfing title. I went on to win two Pro-Junior titles and have now represented New Zealand at eight ISA World Championships. I love the excitement and thrill of travelling the world surfing different waves and meeting amazing people and lifelong friends.

RETURNING FROM INJURY

I was surfing in the Australasian Pro Junior series when injury struck and I tore my right knee. The immediate surgery, comprehensive rehabilitation and significant time out of the water gave me a reality check, and it was a huge learning experience. I had to invest in surfing in different ways, so I helped coach the Tauranga Boys Surf Team and sat my Level 1 judging papers. Although my injury was difficult and disappointing, it gave me time to refocus and reenergise. Now several years on, I’m back in top form, but haven’t forgotten the humbling experience of injury and how it made me who I am today.

GIVING BACK

Many athletes at the peak of their careers are too busy focusing on themselves and their aspirations; I could have been selfish and just surfed, travelled and trained, but that’s not me. I aligned myself with Deuce Generation as my sponsors, who supported me and my surfing - without them I wouldn't be doing what I love, so together we joined forces and became a team. They run an initiative called the 'Young Hearts Project' and I’m a proud ambassador; in only two years they’ve raised $450,000 for young New Zealanders. My driving force is the support I had growing up, the values my family instilled in me were all about positivity and karma. Making time for these kids is my way of giving back; it's so satisfying to share my story with them and provide motivation, advice and skills.

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