One year ago, Matt Banting was on top of the world.
At 20 years old, he'd just won the 2014 WQS (barring CTers competing on the QS) and was set to embark on a decades-long World Tour career. He anticipated the 2015 season with much focus, often rising before the sun to prepare his mind and body for the year ahead. His first heat went well, as Matt defeated 3x World Champion and competition-favorite Mick Fanning at his home break. From there, Matt's year went into a tailspin.
Bad results plagued him, and he could muster up only 4 heat wins over the course of 4.5 events. That half event was J-Bay, where an aerial accident resulted in a season-ending knee injury. Due to his inability to compete the rest of year, Matt was awarded a WSL Injury Wildcard for the 2016 season. Here, Matt talks about his injury, starting over, and his goals this year. --Michael Ciaramella
SURFING: I know you were out of the water a lot longer than expected with the injury you sustained last year, so what has that meant to you and how has it reconfigured your mindset for 2016?
MATT BANTING: The injury gave me a bigger outlook on everything. Last year, I was racing from event to event, so I never got a chance to stop and sit back and realize what was happening. This year, I’m putting more focus on the CTs and not worrying too much about the QS. I am trying to requalify through the CT.
You look at someone like Jordy who has been pretty injury-prone, and he's come out and stated that he's gonna stop trying to land huge airs because he wants to commit himself to winning a World Title. How do you feel about that?
I was tentative coming back and trying to do airs, but I've come back with more strength and stability than I had before. I've actually landed some of the biggest airs of my life after the injury, so I definitely won't be pulling short now. I'm still young and I need to go big to create my profile. I wanna get some good clips along with competition results.
What are some of the events you're most looking forward to this season?
I’m really looking forward to J-Bay, where I was injured last year, and Trestles. I was sitting at home watching Lowers and it was eating away at me. I'm also excited to go to spots like Teahupo'o and take on that challenge. I've been surfing with Mikey Wright a lot, and he's got such a knack for that bigger, thicker waves. Mikey comes from a lot of reefy slabs down in South Oz, whereas I'm from the North Coast NSW where there are more QS style beachies, so we take a bit of each other. But yeah, if I do a few trips with him I'll be all sorted [laughs].
You're no longer a rookie this year. Do you feel like you have a better understanding of the tour now?
I wanted to feel super confident and hyped up last year, but everything was daunting going into it because I didn't know what to expect. So this year, just knowing I've been here before, I feel really comfortable thinking about it all. Time gives you so much more knowledge, so now that I've been there and done it some of the jitters have definitely subsided.
With that being said, what are your goals for this year?
It'd be sick to finish in the top 15, maybe get a couple Quarterfinal results. I'd love to have a few big heats where I'm able to surf my best and post some massive scores. I just want to bring good surfing to the comps.