We had the chance to catch up with professional big wave surfer Matt Bromley this past month. The South African has made a name for himself in the surf community as a menace willing to charge any slab, no matter how terrifying. We talk chasing swells during Covid, Apple Watches, single fins and more. Read below for the full interview.
You started off your professional surf career competing in contests, but eventually left to pursue bigger and badder waves. What was your thought process behind that decision?
I enjoyed the contests but felt that something just wasn't clicking. I loved surfing, but in the heats and surfing against my buddies I didn't experience a deep passion. When I was 17, I had my first session at Dungeons and had a near drowning experience. I was on my way out of the water when a big set pulled in. Something told me to spin and go, and I ended up dropping into the ride of my life. That moment lit the fire for a new direction of big waves. 12 years later, it's still my greatest passion. And when it's stormy and wild, I feel this deep sense of peace because I know that this is what I've been created for and that's exactly where I'm supposed to be.
You’ve been all over the world and have seen hundreds of waves. If you could narrow it down to just one, what’s your favorite wave to surf?
Jaws in Hawaii is the ultimate wave. There's nothing really around the globe that can match its quality and power. That's my strong opinion. Every time I see a big swell headed for Jaws, I get so scared. It's a big battle to get through the fear, but on the other side of that, wow it's fulfilling. That's where the magic happens.
Talk to me about the feeling leading up to a big swell. What’s going through your head?
It's so, so terrifying! I've recently developed a keynote talk where I get into the feelings of facing a 70ft swell on the horizon, and the mental battle that goes on. I get really scared and I have to grapple the doubt and feelings of severe discomfort all the way until I paddle out. In short, I pray a lot, and trust that I've done the preparation and set that foundation to be ready for what's approaching.
You don’t typically find big wave surfers wearing Apple Watches. What are some of your favorite features of the watch?
So far the Apple Watch has been super resilient to wipeouts and being pushed deep under the water, which is quite unique for such a high tech watch. I'm on a really cool program with my medical aid, which rewards me for staying active. So every day I get my reminders to train harder and keep that consistency.
We sent you our Active Strap Pro and Rugged Strap a few months ago. How have they helped you with your big wave performance?
Yes! I really love the straps. I had a few scares with the original Apple Watch strap the last time I was surfing in Hawaii. It almost came off. But the Rugged Strap and the Active Strap Pro have been insane! I had two of the worst wipeouts at Jaws and at Mavericks on the days of the year. I got so violently rattled under the water, and the Nomad Apple Watch strap showed no signs of coming undone. I've really put the straps to the test, and they are so comfy. But more importantly for me, strong.
The Apple Watch has been super resilient to wipeouts and being pushed deep under the water, which is quite unique for such a high tech watch.
Covid has undoubtedly affected travel. Walk me through what it was like getting from South Africa to Hawaii this past year.
That was the most nerve racking experience of my life. I cried twice on the way over. I was so overwhelmed for a number of reasons. The approaching swell was promising to be huge and I hadn't surfed big waves for 11 months. My wife was also pregnant and I'd be missing the first scan. And the most difficult part was traveling for 2.5 days to get to Hawaii, arriving the night before the swell and then paddling out towards Jaws, which is the most terrifying wave in the world. I ended up having an incredible session and it was one of the most satisfying storm chases I've experienced.
Tell me about your worst wipeout this year.
At Jaws, I airdropped on one of the biggest waves of the day. I landed with my foot on the rail instead of the middle of the deck, which sent me turning the wrong way. The lip of the wave landed right on the back of the board. The wave hit me so hard and pushed me so deep, that I was certain both my ear drums were going to burst. I pulled my vest twice and surfaced. I got one quick breath in before the next monster hit. And then got pushed so deep again. Luckily, the third one washed me out of the danger zone. I felt so relieved and powered up after surviving such an intense situation.
The lip of the wave landed right on the back of my board. It hit me so hard and pushed me so deep. I was certain both my ear drums were going to burst.
How do you feel about single fins? Do you have any longboard steeze?
Haha, no I don't. I much prefer performance. Whether it's taking off deeper and steeper or doing big turns.
One wave you’d love to surf but haven’t been to yet?
Cloud Break in Fiji
Favorite hobby/activity aside from water sports?
I'm obsessed with UFC. I do a little jiu-jitsu, but I'm glued to the TV every weekend with the Octagon fights.
Tea or Coffee? Burrito or Bagel?
Coffee and Burrito.
Did you like this interview? Check out another interview we did with professional surfer Ridge Lenny.