After advancing through round three of the Vans World Cup (QS 10’000) event at Sunset Beach, Matty McGillivray confirmed his place on the 2020 Championship Tour.
Giving him a minute to rewire his brain and process the monumental milestone, we spent some time with Matty firing a couple of questions his way:
(Zag) Give us some personal history. Where did you grow up? When did you learn to surf? Were you dropped on your head?
(Matty) I grew up in a big family in Port Elizabeth. My dad made sure we were doing loads of adventurous activities from a young age. He was involved with Summerstrand Surf Lifesaving Club and I started Nippers around 7 years old, doing lots of Malibu boarding, bodyboarding, and body surfing. By age 9 or 10 both my elder brothers got second-hand surfboards and I started surfing with them. My most memorable ‘I want to surf’ moment was after my parents took me out to Jeffreys Bay on my 10th birthday to try surf the point breaks.
My dad swam out with me at lower point and pushed me onto two waves, I wiped out on both the waves, but that experience got me hooked on surfing. As far as school goes I was a goodie two shoes and focused on grades, I played lots of school sports and really enjoyed hockey and tennis. At age 14 my family moved out to Jefferys Bay for a lifestyle change and surfing so I homeschooled grades 9 to 12. My first year finished with school I started traveling full time on the QS.
What do you feel you’ll need to add to your surfing to excel on the CT?
I think the work really starts now but I’m excited to learn as much as I can. Only radical surfing impresses on that stage and so that’s going to be the focus. I’ll also keep trying to improve the way I read waves and the ocean, that’s a constant learning experience.
Are you about to get a big raise?
I’ve been part of the Rip Curl family for 4 years and they’ve really supported me in trying to achieve my goals. Making the CT means I am able to join their international surf team so I’ll be helped out in Dollars which travels way further than Rands overseas.
McGillivray is a mouthful. Do you have a preferred nickname?
Matty is pretty good but I’ll leave it up to you guys (laughs).
How are you dealing with all this attention?
Not too much has changed, I got a ton of messages and I’m pretty bad on my phone. It’s been really nice to experience all the support and it’s motivating me to work even harder going into next year.
Does BASE jumping or skydiving help your surfing?
From the first time I was allowed on youtube as a kid and saw the videos, I’ve always been fascinated with skydiving and BASE jumping. It’s a stressful activity and deals with fear which could help with handling being under pressure in the surf. It’s a nice scenery change and I like being in the mountains with BASE jumping, it’s something that takes my mind off surfing which is healthy.
What’s the most important thing you’ve learned in the last two months?
Not to overthink things and not to get too caught up in the future. It’s what you’re doing right now that matters.
How much did that two weeks in Indo help set you up for Hawaii?
It was a great reminder for me about how much I love surfing. It had been so long since I’d done a trip without a contest involved. It’s something we all dream of as surfers, to go on a trip with friends in search of perfect waves. It was a nice reset before the important events in Hawaii.
Any one heat this year where you thought, shit I think I may have just blown my chance at qualification?
My quarterfinal heat in Ericeira Portugal. I had one 8 point ride and was looking for another to take the lead. There were about ten minutes left and I had priority so all I had to do was wait for the right shaped wave, I knew one would come through. With about three minutes to go, I was still waiting and the pressure was mounting up. A mid-sized wave came through that I thought looked similar to what my competitor had got a good score on earlier in the heat. I wasn’t quite sure but then swung at the last second and tried to catch it. I got caught on a bump at the top of the wave and couldn’t get in, missing it and losing my priority in the process. I was left sitting there, so angry, and a minute later a one wave set with a perfect wave came through. Fifth place was still a good result points-wise, but I could have made things a little easier going into Hawaii.
Do you surf for the minimum score just to keep advancing or do you go for the heat win every time?
If you’re getting around 13 points each heat you’ll make it far in most events and so that’s a good aim, but you always want to go for the heat win, especially with how the seeding works.
Will your base still be in SA or will you move abroad next year?
SA will always be home, but the amount of traveling I’ll be doing just increased even more so. I’m trying to figure out what will work the best right now, so I’ll still have to see.
Do you have a seven dollar story you want to share?
I guess the reason I started surfing when I did was that my older brothers were doing it. They bought two old boards, a Faith and a Lost, for a few hundred rand from a garage sale. I sometimes wonder if or when I would have started surfing if they hadn’t wanted to do it first. Another thing that was important for my surfing was my family moving from Port Elizabeth to J-Bay in 2012.
Did you give yourself an exact time frame in which to qualify, or were you prepared to keep slogging until you made it?
When I first started the QS the idea was three years and see what happens. After my third year I decided that as long as I was improving my surfing and ranking each year, I’d be happy. This was my fourth full year. I think if I hadn’t qualified I would probably have given myself one more year. My plan was if I wasn’t improving I would stop.
How many South African’s will be on the 2021 CT? Who are they and why will they be there?
There’s a bunch of South Africans in the top 100 now and they’re hungrier than ever. Let’s keep the support and see where 2021 takes us!