Faces of 2015 is a series on this year's new and returning Championship Tour athletes. The first profile is on Aussie Matt Banting, who arrives on the CT with an impressive QS and Junior resume. Get to know the up-and-comer before his debut as a member of the Samsung Galaxy Championship Tour at the Quiksilver Pro Gold Coast, which runs Feb. 28 to March 11.
Name: Matt Banting
Hometown: Port Macquarie, NSW, Australia
Shaper: Luke Short Designs, based in Yamba, NSW
Preseason Championship Tour (CT) Ranking: No. 23
World Surf League: What are you most looking forward to on Tour?
Matt Banting: Just being a part of the whole deal. I've been dreaming of being on Tour and being a part of it since I was a little kid. I surprised myself last year, getting on there in one go. It's going to be good to be on there and rubbing shoulders with all the guys. I had a three-year plan and knocked it over in the first year, which was surprising. It feels really good, I'm looking forward to it.
WSL: What are you most nervous about for your first year on Tour?
MB: Probably surfing those waves out Teahupo'o. It looked really solid last year, crazy. A lot of the guys were saying it was scary. And if they're saying that it's scary, then you know it's going to be [expletive] scary!
WSL: What are your goals for your first year on Tour?
MB: To requalify, either through the QS or ideally via the CT. I'd like to have a few back-to-back consecutive years on tour. Knock a few of the older guys off their perch. (laughs) Plus, to win the WSL Rookie of the Year.
WSL: Three words to describe yourself?
MB: I hate describing myself. I had to ask my mum the answer to this one: Committed, competitive and larrikin.
WSL: What's your first memory of surfing?
MB: [My] dad bought me a 41-inch Manta bodyboard and I remember taking it out Chickens, a break near town â€“ it's a small, right point and the waves were only little â€“ and I ended up standing up first wave. Dad was like, '[Expletive], I should have bought you a surfboard!' So he went back to the shop and bought me a soft-top surfboard and I started riding that.
WSL: How do you keep calm in surf that scares you?
MB: Make sure you can hold your breath and have an exit strategy if you need one. Make sure you can get out of the way of the big, ugly waves!
WSL: What's your favorite memory from a surf trip?
MB: Last year in Mexico, we were partying and going surfing every day. We went to Salina Cruz. We were driving on the beach but the tide was coming up and there was six or seven of us in the car and we got bogged. Waves were lapping up and hitting the side of the car. It was mayhem. The Mexican guide was nearly crying, but we ended up getting the car out -- we all had to push it. It was so hot, we nearly lost the motor, but we ended up getting out of it. It was a sick adventure, with Kanoa [Igarashi], Marc Lacomare, Jimmy Graham and some other guys.
WSL: Who on the Championship Tour inspires you?
MB: Julian Wilson (AUS). He's a freak, he's one of the younger guys on Tour and he's got the whole package. He's got the moves in the freesurfs, he does flips and crazy airs and he's really good in big and small waves. He's won events and I've watched him progress the past few years. He's really impressed me.
WSL: What differentiates you from the other surfers on Tour â€“ as a person and as a surfer?
MB: I'm not sure how different I am. Maybe you could say I like a beer in the afternoon [laughs]. In the arvo I like to kick back, relax and wind down. I'm definitely competitive, but I'm not afraid to go out on a Friday or Saturday night and have a look.
WSL: Is there an event in which you believe you have an edge over the other surfers?
MB: Probably in the beachbreak locations. Everyone is ready for all the locations, but I guess I'll have a better chance at the spots I've surfed already, like France, Australia and Brazil.
WSL: What are your weaknesses and how are you working on strengthening them?
MB: Time in the water at the reefs -- places like Teahupo'o, Fiji and Margarets. I need to do more time and train at those sorts of spots. Surf thicker water.
WSL: Who do you train with?
MB: Mick Caine is my coach. I also train with Organic Fitness based in Port Macquarie, it's run by Greg Gleeson. And I do a bit up the coast with a guy called Pete Roberts who trains a few other guys around the Ballina area â€“ Julian Wilson and Adam Melling and so on.
WSL: What's your take on the level of women's competitive surfing today?
MB: Crazy! Even watching that last comp in Maui [the Target Maui Pro] last year, I was saying to a few of the boys how much I'd hate to have Steph Gilmore (AUS) [the reigning World Champion] in a heat. She'd have a chance on the men's Tour I reckon. Sometimes I study her turns, especially the speed she holds through her forehand wrap.
WSL: What do you think the big takeaways were from last season?
MB: That's a tricky one. I learned more traveling by myself on the QS (Qualification Series) than I did watching the CT. I went into the Hurley Australian Open at Manly as defending champion and lost in the first round and then went into the next event at Newcastle [the Burton Toyota Pro] and won it, so for me it was about realizing how important it is to stay confident, no matter what â€“ just keep your chin up and don't let a poor result get to you. In saying that, [new World Champion] Gabriel Medina (BRA) was really inspiring, just watching what he did and how he handled it. But I'm sure I'll learn a lot once I'm on there. I'll be learning fast.