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Waves and My Journey to Pro

Matt's Story

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 5. 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.

Excelling Early

Competitive from a young age, I found passion in sports; my parents made sure we had every opportunity to excel, teaching us to always give 110%. My lifesaving skills flourished as I spent Summers down at the surf club, and I made the national U16 team. In Winter I was on the rugby field as a representative and captain. Although I’d spent most of my life in the sea, it wasn’t until 14 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 it 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, 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 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; 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. 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; I could have been selfish and just surfed and travelled, 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, 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 and the values my family instilled in me. 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.