He could have flown home as soon as he (narrowly) lost to Jordy Smith in Round 3. But where would the fun in that be? Instead, Matt Banting extended his Gold Coast apartment for a week, surfed the best beachbreak he'd seen in a long time at Stradbroke, and spent some quality time with a lovely "friend" from Queensland. Just because the WSL didn't score at Snapper why shouldn't he? Now Matt's driving the 500km [300 miles] back home to Port Macquarie instead of hopping a short flight. He's in no hurry. He might stop off and see a few friends for a night out, or have a surf at a lonely beachie along the way. And come to think of it, doesn't a Big Mac and fries sound nice right about now? He's not on the paleo diet and he doesn't have to worry about 7 a.m. Crossfit training. So why stress? It's this carefree attitude that's seen Matt reach surfing's highest ranks with relative ease, qualifying for the 'CT at just 19. And while he's still just a kid, Matt's already learned that the best way to get where you're going is to take the scenic route.
SURFING: Matty Banting! Where in the world are you?
Matt Banting: Just driving home. Finally leaving Snapper.
You have quite a drive ahead of you then.
Yeah, I've been going for about three hours. I just stopped and picked up some boards from Luke Short and now I'm journeying on and have about another three to go. I got a coffee and a packet of lollies to keep the sugar level up if I start dozing off.
You're from Port Macquarie, right?
Yeah, god's country. It's beautiful. Where are you right now?
I'm at the SURFING office in Carlsbad, CA. No one calls it god's country. You been here before?
More Huntington and San Clemente for the U.S. Open. I'll be over there after Margaret's for the Lowers PRIME.
Are you talking hands-free right now? I don't want you to get a ticket.
Yeah, I got ya on speaker. But I'm on my P-Plates still (provisional license in Australia), and P-Plates you're only allowed to go like 90 (km/hour), and the speed limit's 100 or 120, so I took them off this morning. The car's registered in my mom's name, so hopefully she doesn't get any tickets from the speed cams (laughs).
What are you listening to on this road trip?
A bit of ASAP Rocky, that new Energy by Drake, a bit of old school Biggie, and I've been listening to a lot of Gucci, too. Gucci Maaane.
Ok, so we know you like hip-hop. Aside from that, who is Matt Banting?
I just try to make life as simple as I can and make the most of the opportunities I have. A bit of partying and still being a kid. I wanna keep doing a few edits and couple little videos still and not get too compy so everyone doesn't think I'm just a comp guy doing six to the beach.
You and your filmer, Jimmy Graham, seem to put out a lot of content. How involved are you with the edit process?
I've been working with Jimmy over the last two years. After a good trip, he'll usually edit down the clips to a point where I can get in there. The last edit we did, "Riding Clean," we were coming back from P-Pass and I was getting all stressed out about the footage, wanting to go through all the clips. And Jimmy says, "Relax, I'll put together the best of the best, and then we'll chop that five minutes down to three minutes." And we slowly chopped it together. So I don't really start from scratch, but I definitely put in my 20 cents.
Who do you think you surf like?
I'd love to surf how Andy used to, with his rawness and aggression. Slap a bit of Noa Deane in there and a bit of Dane. I love watching Freestone, too. That last section he had in Cluster was my favorite.
Do you come from a surfing family?
They've always been beach people. Dad always surfed a longboard, but he's never been serious, like surfing in competitions or been in the surfing industry like a lot of the other dads have. It made it super relaxed for me. He's never been pushy or trying to shove stuff down my throat. It's all come off my own bat. My parents have always been there to help me and take me down to the beach and funded me for so many years, doing all the regional comps and driving all around Australia. They've been a massive help, but I definitely haven't come from a surf industry family like Kolohe or someone, which I prefer. It's nice to go back home and it's just a normal life. It's just hanging with your family and friends. It's not always surf, surf, surf every single day.
Who would you say your biggest surfing influences have been?
Probably my coach, Mick Cain, and Mick Campbell. Mick Campbell is from my hometown and was on tour when I was growing up as a kid. Him and Darren O'Rafferty were both Port guys who were on tour when I was a grom. They were always helping me, taking me for surfs and taking me for brekkie before school. It was good to have a couple of guys on tour from around Port. They were great role models.
What kind of waves did you grow up surfing around Port Macquarie?
We have a right point that gets super fun below 6-foot, but it doesn't handle any swell bigger than that. So you gotta travel to Indo or other proper reefs to get comfortable in bigger, powerful waves. I feel like I've honed my small wave game pretty well, but I definitely need to work on the thicker water, reefy stuff.
You qualified for the 'CT at 19 years old. Was that your first year giving it an honest go on the 'QS?
The years before that I didn't actually want to be doing it. I hated being away from home. I was still young in the head. I was just floating with the wind and where the sponsors wanted me to go. But then I got a third at the U.S. Open (2013) and it paved the way for me to get a better seed the next year. And I qualified within the first year.
What's the key to qualifying?
It's a struggle to keep your confidence high when you get beat event after event like you do when you first start doing the 'QS. Coming from the juniors you have so much confidence after consistently making all the finals. But you can't let your confidence hit rock bottom. It took me about eight months to adapt to that field. Now I'm on the 'CT and hopefully I'll be on this tour for years to come.
What's one thing that most people don't know about you?
I love McDonalds. And that In-N-Out, I wish we had it here.
You Aussies fiend for that place.
That's my dirty little secret — fast food. I'm addicted.
How often are we talking?
Aww, if there's no contest routine, about four or five trips a week (guilty laugh). I think I'm gonna stop off in Coffs Harbour soon and get a little dose. It's my last bit of fast food before the next event, I swear.
Check out Banting’s latest full-length edit “Riding Clean” here: