Growing up in Port Macquarie, Matt Banting was a true Aussie super-grom, the likes of which we hadn’t seen since Julian Wilson arrived with his blonde hair and that adorable puka shell necklace. Maybe ten years ago, my friend showed me a video of a young Matt Banting and I vividly remember thinking, What the fuck! This kid is younger than me?
Come to think of it, that might have been the very moment I realized I’d never amount to anything in this sport.
Fast-forward seven years (we’re in 2015 now) to when Banting was starting his CT career. After a few lousy results, Matt injured his knee on a lofty alleyoop at Jeffrey’s Bay, leaving him incapacitated for the remainder of the season. Fortunately the WSL granted Matt an injury Wildcard for 2016, though he would never get back to 100%.
In an effort right his rig, Matt doubled-down on the gym time and surfed to the point of chronic pain. He competed the entire year like this, which showed in his results, until Pipe came along and he simply couldn’t do it anymore. Matt pulled out of that event and we’ve hardly heard from his since.
Not by phone, not by messenger penguin, not even by Instagram. Until today.
And what a sight for sore eyes! Matt’s technically perfect, if slightly mechanical surfing looks back in form. Better yet, the caption hints at his eagerness to reclaim a spot in the Top-34. We immediately got Matt on the phone to hear about what the hell happened, and what he plans to do next.
Stab: Banting! So stoked to hear that you’re back.Matt Banting: Aw thanks, me too. I was pretty down in the dumps last year, with all that time off and all these bad things coming together. But yeah, fresh start, fresh mind, it’s all feeling a bit better.
So what exactly was wrong with you? Was it still the knee thing?Well the knee played a role, but what I’ve been dealing with for the past year is actually in my hips. It’s called osteitis pubis -- it’ common in NRL and ARL but pretty rare in surfing -- and it’s basically just inflammation in the hip and groin. I think it was just too much gym time… lifting heavy weights and stuff. I was getting feelings of it in 2016 on the back half of the Tour -- it just kept getting worse and worse but I tried to push through it, trying to requalify, but I didn’t, and then I got dropped by Quikky. It was all a bit of a downer.
What was the recovery process like? What’d you have to do to get better?I had to let the inflammation settle down for about eight months before I started doing anything. Then it was pretty much hip and core stabilization stuff, just your basic core work. Then it was onto running and more complex stuff, and finally I’m back in the water.
How long were you out of the water in total?The last time I surfed was the 2016 Sunset event. So over a year ago. I had a little surf in mid-September of this year but that’s it.
And now you’re fully back to surfing?Yeah I’ve been back for about a month, and I’m slowly starting to figure it out agiain. My aim is to do the QS this year. I’ve already signed for a little 1,000 event at Boomerang just to get into the swing of things, then I’ve got Surfest in Newcastle, Manly and all them. The WSL has been good to put me back in at 65th after the injury so I don’t have to start from scratch.
Ah that’s great. So are you going to be self-funding this year, considering you no longer have Quik's support?Yeah exactly. I’m lucky enough to have my own house at home, so I’ve had a pretty good start, but it’s a bit of a bummer to not have any money coming in. It’ll be a costly year but hopefully I can get a sponsor to help me out.
What’s your mindset like right now?I had so much time off Instagram last year, I was just so angry with everything. It was just a me-against-the-world kind of thing -- I had this hate inside of me when it first happened. But now I’ve come around to appreciate everything Quiksilver did for me for those 10 years, and there’s still plenty of opportunities out there, so I’m just gonna try my best.
Was it one of those times where it seemed like everything bad was happening at once?Yeah, I just wish I’d known it was Quik’s long-term plan was to drop me, because I was basically surfing with injuries to keep them happy when I should have been taking it easy. But I kept trying to surf comps and gets clips and that led me to where I am now. But it’s all good, I’ve moved past it and am stoked to be back.