Two Minutes With Mark Mathews

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posted by James Willmott

Mark Mathews surely has solidified his name in the world of big wave surfing; dominating heavy slabs like Ours and charging world famous big wave spots including Jaws, Waimea Bay and The Right. And because that’s not enough, Mathew’s continues to push the boundaries in search of a bigger wave and deeper barrel.

We caught up with Mark to discuss the incredible front cover of Stab Magazine, training routines and hobbies outside of the water.

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You are known to be one of the best big wave surfers in the world. What first inspired you to chase big waves?
I guess if I strip it right back to the beginning it was probably looking up to the older guys at the beach and being mesmerized by how crazy they were for surfing on the big days. It was probably only six foot, but I was a grom dreaming of how I could find the balls to get over my fear of big waves and be a hero like them. Then once I took the plunge I just fell in love with all the excitement and adrenalin. Travelling round the world and surfing with only a handful of guys at most spots is pretty enjoyable too!

Give us a rundown of the day you and Taj tackled The Right for Stab’s experiment front cover?
It was such a whirlwind. Sammy and I had been hashing out the general plan for a while & we were just waiting on Mother Nature to cooperate. When the swell showed on the charts I initially thought it was going to be too small but decided to roll the dice anyway. From the moment we pulled the trigger it was a mad rush to coordinating everyone’s travel, ski’s, photographers, and tow partners; it wasn’t really until Taj & I pulled out of the water on the same rope for our first wave that I could relax and enjoy what we’d set out to do. The first couple of waves we caught were a bit of a warm up, it was Taj’s first time out there so he was working out the wave, how deep to get & the tow board. When the big one popped I knew this was the wave we had to get deep on, as we let go of the rope I realised we were too deep but at that stage it was too late. I guess adrenalin kicks in and for a split second I thought we were a chance. The next minute was a blur. It wasn’t until I was back on the ski, bleeding after a 45 second hold down and Taj and I were high fiving each other that I realised we nailed it.

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What’s your favorite big wave surf to surf around the world?
The Right in W.A. is definitely at the top of my lift for towing, its so big and perfect when the ingredients are right. Paddling, I’d have to say Jaws. Waimea is amazing too but at the moment it seems like the spotlight is on Jaws, that’s where I want to spend some time in the lineup & get a few bombs.

Is there a certain routine you run through before taking the ski out on big days?
To be honest it really depends on your tow buddy and who’s ski we have. Now that I’m with Red Bull it’s mental. Their ski’s are brand new, reliable & have all the safety equipment. It’s just the logistics really, but I am talking with them about having a few in different spots around Australia so I can show up, hook it on and go. Tassie, West Oz & South Oz would be epic.

Monster Barrel at Shipsterns Bluff
Who are you currently surfing for?
Head to toe O’Neill clothing and wetsuits, Red Bull, Oakley, Onboard (surfboards; Channel Islands & Simon Anderson), Modom traction and accessories and recently signed with GoPro.

Tell us about the training you do to get ready for the big days.
I do a variety of different things, mental and physical to prepare myself, and if possible something that incorporates both. Breath hold training (Nam Baldwin) is the ultimate. Learning to conserve oxygen in high stress situation & understanding how far you can actually push your body if you are relaxed.

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Who’s the crew you cruise with when surfing the big days?
I surf with Hippo a bunch, he’s chasing every swell like me then usually the local boys at every location. The locals at Shippies & The Right go hard, it’s epic to show up and have a bunch of mates at every location pushing the limits.

Tell us about your other hobbies apart from surfing.
I play guitar. I learnt watching YouTube clips when I was out of the water injured and haven’t put it down since. Public Speaking has become a big part of my life over the past couple of years too. I thought surfing big waves was the scariest thing ever until I had to stand up in front of a huge room of people and give a 45 minute talk!