Leaning out over the 8th floor penthouse of Komune Hotel in Queensland, Australia, I am trying to explain to Matt Meola the meaning of “Tiger Blood.” He’s been traveling for two days to get here from his tiny island of Maui on time, and so he missed the news that Charlie Sheen was newly elected the “Awesomest Man Alive.” In fact, right now, Matt’s a little nervous that the title might be falling on his skinny shoulders. Everyone is staring at him. He’s holding a $100,000 check and champagne with his name on it. We’re both quite drunk. The DJs are very loud. Everyone is dancing. It’s hard to explain the nature of Tiger Blood. Tiger Blood-ism. What’s it got to do with me?
In the end, I just say, “You got it, man. You got Tiger Blood.” A few minutes later, he is gone.
We talk briefly the next morning. Matt is worried about how to travel with such a giant-sized check back to Hawaii. He is anxious to get home. To the real victory party.
A few days later, I call him at home. This is what we say:NATHAN MYERS: Have you seen the Charlie Sheen videos since we last talked in Australia?
MATT MEOLA: Oh my god. Those things are out of control. I could watch those clips all day. So good.
What do you remember from the awards show night?
I just remember being the most nervous I’ve ever been in my whole life. When me and Craig [Anderson] were on stage my heart was pounding super hard. I’ve never been close to that nervous before. Hearing my name was a relief more than anything. I thought I’d be freaking out, but all I could do was stand there and smile.
Did you talk to Craig afterward?
Just a little bit, but not much about the contest.
Was that weird?
Yeah. I mean, I would have been bummed if I flew all the way over for nothing. But Craig was super cool about it. It didn’t seem too awkward at all. He’s a cool guy.
When did it all set in for you?
It was more like when I was flying home from Australia that I started to realize how big it was. Well, actually, the next morning when I logged onto Facebook my thing was just blown out to the max. I had so many comments and friend requests I didn’t know what to do with them all. That’s when it sunk in.
He said congratulations, and what am I gonna do with my $60,000. [laughs]
What did you say?
I don’t even remember. I think I was a little star struck. I think I just stuttered at him.
You just disappeared afterward.
Yeah, I wandered off with some chick.
Chicks dig giant checks.
I guess so.
How did you get that big check back home on the plane?
I was kinda stressing on that a bit. They stopped me at the gate and I thought they were gonna say I couldn’t bring it on, but she just said, “Congratulations.” It ended up fitting perfectly in the overhead compartment.
Was that awkward, carrying that check around the airport?
So many people were pointing at me. It felt weird to have everyone looking at me.
I haven’t had a victory party yet. I’m trying to set up something at a local bar and make it a fundraiser for a store in my neighborhood called Kuau Mart. It was one of the last locally owned stores around and the landlord skyrocketed the rent. But everyone who surfs who grew up eating there and I think they might be able to keep it open if they raise enough money. I thought maybe I’d ask for donations at the door of the party.
Have you decided how you’re breaking the check up with your filmmaker Elliot?
I’m trying to work that out now, but I’m having a lot of people tell me different stuff. Elliot says he wants 40%, because that’s what Clay [Marzo] and Adam [Klevin]’s deal was. But I just counted the clips and 11 of the surfing clips were Elliot, and 21 came from other people. But he did all the lifestyle and editing. I’m just trying to keep everyone happy, ‘cause I definitely want to keep using him in the future.
You’re kinda the test pilot for this situation. But that’s why the check goes to the surfer, ‘cause every situation is a bit unique and generally complicated.
I wish I’d made an agreement beforehand. That would have made it easier.
That’s good advice for future qualifiers. Once the money’s in hand, everything changes.
Yeah. I’m still sorting it out. There’s a lot of people to take care of on this one. I just want everyone to be happy in the end.
What are you gonna buy?
First I’ll pay the filmers. Then help our friends at Kuau Mart. And hopefully turn the rest into more money. Good investments. That’s the idea, at least.
You’re still injured right? How long ‘til you can surf again?
I’ve been swimming every day and going to the gym. My leg is strong. I think in a month I’m going to try to be out there, because I got a trip coming up.
You didn’t used to have “trips coming up”. You used to just stay in Maui.
I know. Innersection has changed everything for me. I’m really grateful…I think.
You’ve got a free section in next year’s movie too — how are you gonna defend your title?
I think next year’s Innersection is gonna be a lot harder than it was this year. I’d definitely want to do some trips to different places so my section doesn’t look the same, I need some bigger waves, and there’s a few tricks I’d like to land. There’s one in the section that I don’t land, and I’d like to stomp that. My two goals for next year are my part for the OxBox movie and a part for Innersection, so I think that’ll keep me busy.
What’s the weirdest thing that’s happened since winning this?
Some guy made a fake twitter of me.
That’s when you know you’ve made it.
I couldn’t believe it. He started writing Tony Hawk thanking him for the props and stuff. It’s pretty weird. I think I’m going to make a Twitter and contact that guy. Like, what are you doing?
Any advice to next year’s Innersection competitors?
I wasn’t very confident going into this event. I was just stoked to be in the movie, so winning it was a huge surprise. I guess I’d just say get a good theme going. Some of the stuff on there is kinda boring. My first edit was pretty strange and I got some shit for that. Mainly, I’d say don’t use anything but you’re A grade clips.
Well congratulations again. Looking forward to watching you try to defend your title.
Thank you guys so much. I’m looking forward to seeing the next year of the contest. I think this one is gonna get gnarly.