Mark Mathews - Professional Big Wave Surfer

Mark Mathews is not the kind of person that gives up when life gets though. The big wave professional surfer almost lost his life during a major accident while surfing a monster wave in Tasmania. But he got back in the ocean and showed the world what chasing a dream really means. In the last 10 years he is a recognised surfing legend, keynote speaker and has won 3 back-to-back Oakley Big Wave Awards.

Mark Mathews surfing in Tasmania, by Andrew Chisholm

(Mark Mathews surfing in Tasmania, by Andrew Chisholm)

When and why did you start surfing?

My whole family surfed when I was young. We would go on camping trips down the coast and everyone would be out there. My mum on her body board, and my sis and dad on mals. I had no other choice!

What was your first board?

 It was one of Pam Burridges second hand boards. A hot buttered full deck grip, Vetea David style.

In one of your videos you say you were terrified of the ocean when you were a kid. How did you get over it?

I hung out with guys like Koby and Sunny Abberton. They pushed me to surf bigger waves and eventually I became more comfortable and fell in love with it. One scary experience at a time.   

Today Is Perfect - Mark Mathews from O'NeillOz on Vimeo.

When did you decide you wanted to surf big waves? Did something/someone inspire you?

I saw the career Koby had and wanted it more than anything. Then after surfing Shipsterns bluff for the first time I ended up on the cover of magazines and got my first sponsorship. The simple success equation was right there in front of me: getting photos surfing big scary waves that no one else wanted to.

Do you remember the first big wave you ever surfed?

Shipsterns bluff back in 2001 was the biggest leap in size I've had to this day. 

You had a pretty serious accident while surfing a big wave in Tasmania, what was the scariest part of it?

The realisation that you’re not invincible. It’s a hard process to get your confidence back after every bad injury. You go from “nothing will hurt me” to thinking “every wipe out is going to hurt me”.  You have to go through a whole run of wipeouts with out getting hurt to rebuild your confidence.

How has surfing changed your life?

Once you experience getting barreled for the first time everything changes. From that point on your entire life will revolve around getting to experience that feeling again and again and again.   

You have filmed a documentary called “Fighting Fear”. How did that come about?

 It was Michael Lawrence (@garagefilms) and Macario Desouza’s idea. They wanted to make a follow up to BraBoys but with a more positive spin about friendship. And how having one good friend can change your life.

You also give inspirational talks around the world. Do you enjoy that side of your work?

I’m starting to enjoy it more as I become more comfortable on stage. For me, learning public speaking was a lot scarier than learning to surf big waves.

What would be your advice to anyone that wants to pursue a career in the surf industry?

None of it is rocket science. The majority of your career success is going to come from being some one who people want to hang out with. Aside from obviously polishing your skills and knowledge, learning to be more emotionally inteligent  will play a huge role in your success.  

Any big plans for the future?

I’ve been injured and out of the water for the last 5 months. All I want to do is be able to surf again! haha 

Where can we find you online?


Posted by: Marta Gallardo, on April 17, 2016
Categories: Interviews