Before his trip to South Africa, acclaimed shaper Matt Biolos has some reassuring words for local surfers who think we’re a failure in professional surfing. He talks to CRAIG JARVIS.
WS: South Africa has many underachieving surfers with incredible talent who don’t cut the mustard in pro surfing. What is lacking?
MB: I don’t think SA has any more percentage of “slackers” than any other surfing country. There’s plenty to go around, globally. I do recognise that there traditionally have been hurdles for the SA surfers that over the years have limited access to an international career. My first trips to South Africa, in the mid 90’s, were pre-popular Internet. Information moved a lot slower, and the cutting edge surfing and board design for that matter took longer to get to the far reaches of the world. Financially, the exchange rates have, and continue to be a hurdle. Looking at what has happened in Brazil for an example of modern technology. Those kids have lived their entire life on the Internet, and studying what the best surfers around the world did weeks, or even days before, the style, technique, board design, everything. They mimic it on all fronts, all day long, in the warm water beach breaks. I also do believe that warm water locations naturally breed a lot of good surfers as well. Time spent in the water is more important than good waves, up to a point at least.
WS: How can we get our youngsters on the tour?
MB: It’s harder than that. For your population, to have even two out of 34 is not that bad. California has 25 million people along the coast, and we just now have three guys the tour. Hawaii, the birth place of surfing, where kids get to see all the world’s best surfers, and world’s best waves in front of their face all winter long, has two, and one of those is in his mid thirties. Florida, or the east coast of USA, has two, and both are 20-year vets. How’s the USA gonna get more than you guys? Making the World Tour might actually be the most difficult and elite cut in sports today. It’s the narrowest, most global field of any professional sport.
WS: We have coaches doing good stuff with our kids, but maybe there should be a different approach? You are part of Kolohe’s coaching inner circle. What advice would you give?
MB: Look, freaks are freaks. And unless the freak burns out or runs astray, then the freak cream will ride to the top regardless. I first landed in Durban in about 1995. Graham Smith flew me out because he saw something he liked in the noise we were beginning to make in the States. His little boy was with us all the time. In the surfboard factory, on the beach, surfing, meeting all the Pros during the Gunston etc. That all helps, but if Jordy didn’t possess some freakish sense of physical awareness, his innate balance and natural gift of talent, well he would probably be a very solid surfer regardless, but after getting the wave of the morning at New Pier, he would drive to the factory and air brush or shape boards, like his old man. The same can be said for Kolohe. No amount of coaching or training is going to turn an average talent into a top 34 surfer. It’s too narrow a field now.
WS: There are alternate careers out there, see Chris Wardo/Mason Ho, but really hard to maintain. How could a surfer in South Africa, with limited sponsorship funding, forge an alternate career?
MB: Ward was a WT surfer. He is an extremely interesting and polarising personality and is recognised as one of the ten best tube riders, if not 5 best, alive. He has a unique situation. That said, because of some negatives he has brought to himself, he is barely making enough money to survive right now. That said, if there is a 15-year-old kid in SA right now, who surfs like Ward at 15, then my hunch is that kid will make the tour. THAT’S the kid you want to coach. Because, like Jordy, Chris was, and is, a Freak. Put your money on the freak talents. Mason is one of the few guys with magnetism and attractiveness beyond pre-meditated “image.” He’s a breath of fresh air. Most of the internet and magazine darlings tend to be more manufactured. They have a gimmick. No posing or posturing for Mase. But, without compatible success, even the freshest breath of air can grow stale shortly. Mason had a great run in Hawaii this season. He won Sunset and made a final at Pipe. He needs to learn to take that success off the island.
Part 2 drops soon.
Matt will be touring South Africa from June 28 to July 20. He will be surfing, shaping, talking boards and board design and going surfing with the local crew whenever he can. For info on his tour and any board queries – firstname.lastname@example.org