On the eve of Hawaiian Pro at Haleiwa, the night before the start of the Triple Crown in Hawaii, Torrey Meister catches his breath on the sand after a late session at Sunset. It's been a hell of a week for Meister, a stretch where in one day at Steamer Lane he took a shortcut up the pro surfing ladder and earned a new paycheck, complete with a fresh sticker for his nose. Still reeling from the win, Meister explains how he got here and where he's headed next:
Describe your last year as a traveling pro.
I did all the Primes in 2013, but didn't really get the results I was hoping for. It's been a long year, but it's been good, I've learned a lot. I was doing the 'QS and pretty much just paying for it on my credit card, then doing minimum payments and paying off whatever I could at the time, just hoping for a big break or a good result where I could make enough money to pay off what was owed. Life on the edge.
What kind of stress comes with that?
In the back of your mind, the stress is always there. That you just spent five grand on a trip and if you don't make a couple heats you're not going to get that money back. And even if you do make a couple heats, you might only break even. Realistically, you're not making money, you're really just trying to put it toward a dream. Which is totally worth it, for me, to surf for a living; it's the coolest thing ever…if it works out. But if it doesn't, you're looking at a lot of debt you're going to have to pay off, somehow.
Not to mention the money it takes to get the exposure you need for sponsors.
The only kind of trips I could afford and was going on were WQS trips, which like I said before I could still barely even afford. I mean, no matter what you'll make some kind of money, but I couldn't even consider going on a trip just to get good waves and photos and clips. I had to just do whatever I could, wherever I was for the 'QS, and hope for the best.
That said, where was your head at going into the Coldwater?
You know I'd never really done well at Steamer Lane before, so I was nervous, but this year I felt like I had a board that worked really good on that wave. It's a really tricky wave, but my board seemed to fit it this year. I felt good going into the event, again not super nervous, I was just more caught up in the moment than ever. I had so much going on, I'd just got home from Portugal, there was a 'QS there, so I made it home to San Diego for three days, then I went and surfed one heat at Sunset, and then I jammed over to the Coldwater in Santa Cruz. I was just in the moment, everything felt good, my board felt great, just grinding. That's the word I'd use to explain the whole experience, grinding.
With that new format, it was winner-take-all. What was that pressure like?
The pressure was definitely there, the fact that I could finish second and not get anything. But I wasn't thinking about getting second. The whole day I felt like I was in a good rhythm with the waves, and I knew I could win it. I had a lot of hard heats and amazing competitors; Wade Carmicheal is a great competitor, but I was still at ease in the water. Maybe that's what made it happen for me.
How does it feel being the guinea pig for this new contest format?
I mean there's some pressure, but it's definitely a lot less than what I had before. I'm stoked to be a guinea pig; I think what O'Neill did with the Coldwater, I can't believe they pulled that off. When I first read the invite, I didn't believe they were going to do that for us. It was the coolest event. I hope I can do well this year to show that it really works. I mean, how many good guys are out there without a full sponsor right now?
How long did it take you to wrap your head around what you'd accomplished after your win?
It took a while. Honestly, I'm still kind of wrapping my head around it. When I heard about what next year's going to look like for me and I met all the guys from O'Neill…I still can't believe it. What's more important to me than money or anything is being with a company that I feel is a good fit, and I think that's what I get there. I'm stoked to move forward from here, it still feels surreal, so I just want to roll with it and do as best I can to try and make everyone proud.
How's this all compare to where you were a year ago today?
I definitely feel a lot more comfortable. I feel like now I can just surf how I want to surf, rather than being so worried about everything, worried about money and what's going to happen next. All of last year I didn't know what was going to happen in the near future, without a sponsor, at 25 years old, getting pretty close to crunch time in my career. But with this now, I just feel like I'm enjoying it rather than stressing. I do my best when I enjoy things, obviously, so yes, I feel super blessed.
So you're saying you might surf better when you're not worried about your credit card bill?
Yeah, I think it will be easier. I hope so [laughs]. If that doesn't make it easier, I don't know what will.
Where to from here? In a way, you just got hired for new job, and have to get to work.
Yeah, it's exactly like that. I'm trying to stay aware of that. To celebrate, but the real goal is to have a career next year, to surf my best and make as many heats as I can. To keep grinding. I'm definitely going to give the 'QS a good go next year. I'll film as much as I can. But I mean as far as surfing goes, I don't think I'll change much. I'll still surf all day, as much as I can, and grind as hard as I can. If anything, now I need to work harder. But at least now I have the support.