Photos by Quincy Dein
Now two rounds deep, Innersection.tv has spawned a number of sneaker stars — guys who've answered Taylor Steele's call for self-produced film segments with two-minute surprise blockbusters. Nate Tyler, Pete Devries, Flynn Novak and Luke Cederman are among the early Cinderellas. Another is Matt Meola, 20 years old from Maui, whose peer group includes the Clay/Barger/Dusty crew — but Matt's remained underground until now. He sat down to help us with a simple question: What's a Matt Meola?
SURFING Magazine: You grew up with Maui's crazy dream team kids, like Dusty Payne and Granger Larsen etc, but we barely know your name. Why?
Matt Meola: I was really into skateboarding when I was younger, but was always good friends with Dusty and Kai [Barger]. I would surf with them, just not nearly as much. So they were on the scene before I was — they were going full-throttle, while I wasn't really thinking about it at all. Then when I was 14, I got back into surfing again.
Do you still skate now?
Not really. I skateboarded for a few days straight last year on my buddy's half-pipe, and I couldn't surf for like a week afterward because my knees hurt so bad.
Has your Innersection part garnered a lot of interest? People calling you like this, promising to make you famous?
I've gotten way more attention. Definitely.
How have your sponsors reacted? Offering up more opportunities for you?
I went to my sponsors after I made [Innersection] and am trying to get them to pay for me and my filmer to go on some trips this summer, maybe to Indo or something. Hopefully they'll open up my budget a little more, but right now I'm still talking to them about it.
Do you work on Maui as well, or are you a student?
I pretty much just surf.
Do you travel much?
I stay on Maui a lot of the time, but last summer I got to go to the Mentawais, which was sick. I travel a little, but I'm not always on the road like my friends are. Kai, Granger and them, they're always gone, so…hopefully that'll happen for me.
So no interest in doing contests?
Not at all.
Then what's your ideal career situation — would you stick to Maui, take lots of trips, be a video guy, a Pipe guy? What?
I'd live on Maui but travel as much as possible, chasing swells, maybe doing a couple of contests here and there that I'd really want to do — kind of the route Ian Walsh has taken. I'm super over chasing the WQS. It's so stressful.
And your sponsors support that path?
Yeah. Two months ago I approached them with that question, and they were cool with it. O'Neill never really had any freesurfers — most of them are chasing the 'QS — and I told them I wanted to be that guy. They were cool with it, but I just need more of a budget because…it costs a lot of money to travel all the time to where the best waves are.
Do you post up on the North Shore during the winter?
I'm definitely going to be there a lot longer next year. I had planned to be there more this past season, but I ended up barely going at all because there were so many huge swells. When it gets really big, Maui's the spot to be because — once Oahu's closed out — we have so many good waves. Honolua Bay, Jaws…so I just ended up staying.
You like Jaws?
Yeah, I was out there almost every swell this year.
Whom do you tow with?
My tow partner is Albee Layer, and then Billy Kemper and Marlon Lewis go out together, so it's kind of the four of us. We all take turns whipping each other in.
How'd you get a Jet Ski?
Albee won the [VQS Championships] I think two years back, and he won ten grand and bought a Ski. That's how it all started.
Do you have any interest in other big waves, like Maverick's or Waimea?
For the most part, just Jaws, but I want to try Shipsterns one day. I'm more into the tow thing — I'm not that into going out at, like, Waimea. It's so crowded. In those huge waves, paddling is the biggest rush probably, but by towing you can surf the wave so much better. I'd rather do that, I think.
When do you start working to improve your Innersection for the later stages? Are you filming non-stop now?
Yeah, we're already trying to film. Yesterday we went over to this cool spot on the Southeast part of the island that almost never breaks and got some good footage. I definitely want to replace every clip from my section.
Our initial query — who is Matt? — has been thoroughly answered, but now we’ve stumbled upon another puzzler: Just how many brilliant young surfers has Maui been hiding?