It wasn't long ago that Maui's Matt Meola was struck with the sinking feeling that his career as a professional surfer was nearing an end. Although he’s one of the most versatile individuals of his generation, for one reason or another, Matt's career failed to launch. That all changed recently when a video of Matt punting to the stratosphere went viral. On the heels of his online debut, Matt continued his rise to fame with a stellar Innersection segment. As fate would have it, Matt would go onto win the $100,000 first-place prize and continue tanning himself in the limelight. So how does it feel to rise from anonymity to surfing stardom in the course of a single year? We caught up with Matt after his big Innersection win to find out.
So going into the Innersection awards in Australia, were you thinking that you had a chance at winning this thing?
Well, Innersection announced the top six contenders about two weeks before they announced the winner, but I really didn't think I was gonna win. I was just happy to be in the top six. My mom thought it would be a good idea to go out to the award party in Australia just to meet everybody and show my appreciation for how Innersection really changed my life.
When they announced that you had beat Craig Anderson, what was going through your head and how long until you started thinking about ways to spend the $100,000?
They called Ando [Craig Anderson] and I on to the stage and told us that we were neck and neck up until the final few days. That point was probably the most nervous I have ever been in my entire life. My heart felt like it was gonna pound out of my chest. When they announced me as the winner it was a huge feeling of relief. I was in shock. I always thought that if I won something of this magnitude I would be jumping for joy and screaming my brains out, but all I could do was just stand there with a smile on my face. Yeah, I'm still thinking of ways to spend the money.
It feels like your career has really been reinvigorated by the Internet. How would you say that the Internet has shaped your career?
Yeah, for the most part my entire career is based off of the Internet. If it wasn't for the Internet, I would probably be looking for a normal job on Maui and surfing for fun in my spare time.
Are you planning on entering the next season of Innersection?
I feel really lucky to say that the guys at Innersection gave me a wildcard into the next movie. I would have tried to enter regardless but with all the other stuff I have going on it would have been really hard to find the time to put another part together.
You're coming off an injury that's kept you out of the water for a while now. What happened and how's the recovery coming?
My friend Albee Layer and I were towing at this secret slab that rarely breaks. A super gnarly one came in that I probably shouldn't have caught. I tried to ride it anyways and just got sucked up the face and into the lip. As soon as I fell I felt my knee pop and immediately knew it was the end of my winter. I have been out for about 11 weeks and hope to be surfing in a month or so. In the meantime I have been training daily at Upcountry Fitness. It's a super sick gym in Haiku, Maui. The trainers there have been really great helping me recover and stay in shape while I can't surf.
Do you have any plans on spending the cash?
The first thing I want to do is put on a party/fundraiser for Kuau Mart on Maui. Kuau Mart was one of the last local, family stores on the north shore of Maui where just about every surfer from Ho'okipa grew up eating breakfast and lunch. Just before I left to Australia they were shut down by their landlord who decided to raise their rent so they couldn't stay anymore. Other than that I need to pay my filmers and editor and then we'll see what I have left.
So where to now?
Oxbow is coming out with a movie that I will start filming for as soon as I am healed up. Between that and another Innersection part I feel like I'll be pretty busy. Other than that I hope to maybe find an energy drink sponsor and maybe a shoe deal.