22 years of age, Matt Bromley has big dreams like most of the young men his age. However it's not the allure of the World Tour, nor the dreamy life of a freesurfer he longs for, no, Matt wants nothing more than to conquer the biggest waves the planet can throw at him.
At the sight of him, tall and lean, you wouldn't necessarily have guessed it... but the photos Matt shows me demonstrate an impressive level of big wave commitment and competence for a kid his age.
Hailing from Cape Town, South Africa, Matt is in no shortage of big waves to chase. Up there with Hawaii, the region harbours an impressive number of big wave lineups all located within close proximity. Names like Dungeons, Sunset, Outer Kom, Crayfish Factory and little further down the coast Bayview.
“I competed in a few Pro Juniors, but was too interested in scoring big barrels so I quickly chose to go down the freesurf route thanks to support from Billabong and Monster Energy... but today what I really want to do is surf big waves."
Opting to forego a successful freesurf career during which Matt scored numerous magazine front covers isn't something he just decided like that, or simply to emulate fellow South African big wave star Grant 'Twiggy' Baker, but instead the idea first came to him while he was out surfing Jaws.
“At Jaws, I realised that it was possible to surf big waves without simply dropping straight down the face of them. It's where I understood you can really surf big waves, it's not just about the drop. It was of course a terrifying experience but at the same time gave me a whole new lease of motivation and today I'd like to start applying some of my barrel experience to surfing bigger waves."
The big wave spot of Bayview where Matt has been able to begin combining his two favourite disciplines: tubes and big waves. Photo Alan Van Gysen
Matt does most of his training at home and mostly at Dungeons, a wave which many of the big wave world elite consider to be the most treacherous leg on the new Big Wave World Tour (in fact there's talk the event may run soon after J-Bay). So as far as wave quality goes the young South African has everything going for him and with the likes of Shane Dorian and company pushing the boundaries of big wave surfing so hard there's certainly no lack of role models to emulate.
"I've got the technique down but need to build on my experience" he willingly admits, "But I've been training, I swim, I workout in the gym, I spearfish, I want to make sure I'm ready for the day it's really big. But I'm not interested in just paddling big waves, they've got to be hollow too. Forget waves like Belharra, I want to be pulling into giant gaping tubes and nobody does that better than Shane Dorian."
Taking off nice and deep at Sunset, Cape Town. Photo Alan Van Gysen
Another of the young South African's highlights this year was a trip up to the Skeleton Coast in Namibia, for one of the biggest swells ever surfed there during which he scored some of the best waves of his life.
“There were these 10 foot barrels that were just detonating on dry sand. I don't think anyone had ever surfed the wave that big... It's such a hostile environment, with the seal colonies, the hyenas on the beach feeding on washed up carcasses... Two duckdives and I was out the back but you couldn't see further than 30 metres away because the fog was so thick. All the waves seemed to be closing out... I ended up eating shit on about three quarters of them, but the ones I made were hands down some of the best I've ever surfed..."
At J-Bay as a spectator for the world tour event, Matt has been anxiously watching the charts for any signs of a swell that might see the big wave event at Dungeons run. He's on the local wildcard list and itching to test his new rhinochaser. But presently out with an ankle injury, he's praying they wait the two further weeks he needs before he's allowed back in the water.
Sunset again. Photo Alan Van Gysen