Surfer Profile: Matt Meola
By Madeline Ziecker
SPONSORS: SOS Shapes, Oxbow, Sanuk, Kaenon Polarized, Dakine, Rockstar Energy Drink
PRO-SURFING CAREER: 2011 – Present
Maui and the world have watched young Matt Meola transform from a talented island grom (slang for young surfer) into an unmatched, pro-surfer sensation.
Meola met with Maui Now to share a little bit about his personal life both in and out of the surfing spotlight.
MN: How old were you when you started surfing? Were you influenced by peers or parents, or was it something you immediately took to on your own?
Meola: Well actually my dad used to take me when I was two-years-old so I don’t think I really had a choice. As I got older I’d go but it wasn’t like an every day thing. I was really into skateboarding and that’s all I wanted to do.
I wanted to be a professional skateboarder and I got pretty good by winning local contests, but then by the time I was 13 all my friends were more into surfing than me.
When my dad started working in Kuau I started surfing way more because the skatepark was far away and I didn’t drive so my friends and I would walk to Tavares or hitchhike to Hookipa. By 14 I was really into it.
MN: How is the surfer lifestyle treating you?
Meola: I’d say it’s about the best lifestyle in the world. I don’t think there’s anything I would rather be doing. I wake up every morning and all I have to do is decide where I want to go surf.
But being a professional surfer isn’t all fun. Sometimes you have to fly across the world just for a meeting or a one-day photo shoot.
I’ll be in the studio or on an airplane, sick, and that’s when the job is more difficult.
MN: How much do you have to travel for your surfing career?
Meola: In the winter I’m here a lot because waves are consistent, but as soon as the surf dies down then I’m planning out trips and gone for the summer.
I go to France a lot because I’m sponsored by Oxbow and they’re a French company. I’m pretty well known over there, probably even more than here.
MN: Anything you want to do career-wise besides surfing?
Meola: Well, I’m eventually going to get old and all the younger kids are going to be better than me some day, so it can’t last forever even though I want to surf for my whole life.
I want to act in movies. I think it would be super fun to act in funny movies. Whenever I see a movie it’s always going through my head like, dude, that would be so fun to play that character!
I swear if my friends and I had a camera on us at all times we could have the best reality TV show ever. I’ve got some crazy friends and there’s always something funny happening.
MN: What’s your favorite thing to do besides surfing?
Meola: I like spear fishing. We go out on the jet skis to places far from land that you can’t normally get to. When the waves are flat I go diving a lot .
MN: How do you spend your time on dry land?
Meola: I like to go hunting for deer and pigs with my friends. What else? I like to party. I guess just the normal stuff someone my age would do on Maui.
MN: What’s one of the best places in the world you’ve surfed?
Meola: I like Indonesia and the Mentawai islands. I’ve been there four or five times and that place is consistently the best place I’ve been, but to be honest I like it at home more than anywhere.
MN: What are your favorite spots to surf on Maui?
Meola: I have a couple of secret spots that I have the most fun at, but I love Hookipa. It’s my home break. To me it’s the best place in the world aside from Jaws. I feel super lucky to have that in my back yard.
My career is basically based off of Hookipa and Jaws. With out those two spots I would be nobody.
MN: Do you plan to stay in Maui for the long-term?
Meola: Well I definitely don’t plan on going away to school, and out of all the places I’ve traveled I haven’t found anywhere that comes close to Maui. There are a lot of really beautiful places but nothing compares to home. I want to be in Haiku until the day I die.
MN: What was the scariest wave of your life?
Meola: Definitely that day at Jaws (January 5, 2012). I’ve surfed bigger days at Jaws, but with tow-in surfing.
Now that paddle surfing is taking over, it’s twice as scary as towing. With the jet-ski you basically avoid the hardest part of the wave because you don’t have to catch it yourself and make the drop, so that just makes it super gnarly.
I was so scared that on the way down there in the dark I started tearing up and shaking. There are other waves that have definitely scared me, but for me nothing compares to Jaws.
I get stressed out when I see the swells rising the week before a huge set.
But then, after the swell when I make it back and I’m alive, it’s the best feeling in the world.
MN: What are some projects you’re currently working on for 2012?
Meola: This year I’m working with my buddy Albee (Layer). We’re supposed to make 8 web edits with surf footage from all over the island.
We’re going to release our first one by February 15. It’s a project sponsored by Rockstar.
For the first 48 hours they will have the rights to it and after that they’re just going to push it all over the internet. So that’s keeping us super busy.
We film every day with our videographer, Dan Norkunas (who edited Meola’s 2011 winning surf clip for the second Innersection surf film). I’m stoked. We’ve already got enough footage for two episodes. We’re just trying to get all our sponsors to pitch in so that we can hire our videographer full time.