Matt Bromley Surfing Indonesia

Facing Fear with Professional Big Wave Surfer Matt Bromley

Chad Schwab


5 years ago in News

Being an ex-competitive surfer, I have been lucky enough to rub shoulders with some of South Africa’s finest surfers. Not only did I get my butt handed to me by these guys in the water, I got to know them on a personal level out of the water.  It was no easy task because he has been promoting his latest surf edited Risky Business all over the world but I managed to track down one of the most humble amongst the lot.. Matt “Bromdog” Bromley, to have a deeper look into the mind of a professional big wave surfer and what he does to prepare himself to surf waves of consequence.

Chad: So Matty, tell us a little about yourself

Matt: I’m 25, I was born in Newlands playing tennis, rugby and swimming, which formed the foundation for my surf fitness, I guess. My family and myself moved to Kommetjie when I was 12 to a house on the beach. That’s when I dropped everything else, started surfing every single day no matter the conditions. My dad has been surfing for 50 years now and he is still frothing harder than ever. He helps me to keep the froth alive. So growing up in Kommetjie, right in front of my house was Sunset. I used to come home from school, I could see the guys towing or paddling in when it was really big and I thought to myself. “ one day I want to surf that wave!” I was exposed to these mountains of water which were basically right in my front yard.

Chad: Obviously you come from such a strong competitive background. What made you turn your back on competing and lean towards big wave surfing?

Matt: Surfing has always been my passion and I felt like it wasn’t really being expressed in contest surfing. I surfed competitively until I was 20. I felt like I was losing to people who were worse than me and it felt like I wasn’t achieving my full potential in contest surfing. I found during events I would do my best when the waves got much bigger, which gave me the urge to start dabbling in bigger waves. When I was 17 I kind of did a “Yolo” session out at Dungeons and that was the make or break from me. I got caught inside some of the biggest waves I had seen that time. I was busy paddling back to the boat so rattled and I remember saying to myself “ I don’t want to do this ever again” and on the way to the boat this wide set came through, I turned around and went and I had one of the most exhilarating rides of my life.  That wave paved the way to big wave surfing for me. All it took was one wave at dungeons.

Chad: So on the topic of these big wave spots. Sunset or Dungeons?

Matt: It’s really interesting, because everyone thinks Dungeons is the gnarlier out of the two but when Sunset is big I reckon it’s way more scary. All of the oceans energy is converging onto a ledge out the back when it’s 20ft+  and just barrels top to bottom and you get way more pumped there than you do at dungeons. A beating at Sunset tends to not stop whereas Dungeons your first beating will probably be more intense and maybe even your second one but then you get washed into deep water where the waters safety can come and collect you.

Chad: When are you going to take me out there?

Matt: (Nervous laugh) Whenever you want?

Chad: I think I’m better off watching from the boat. 🙂

Chad: Can you tell me a bit about how you mentally prepare yourself for a day out at Sunset or Dungeons?

Matt: We are lucky enough these days to be able to forecast a swell well in advanced, so I generally have a whole week to prepare for it. And if it’s going to be really really big then I will spend a lot of time in the pool, getting comfortable in the water doing breath hold techniques, holding my breath under pressure with a raised heart rate. For me the biggest thing is prayer and visualization. I like to visualize myself sitting further out than everyone else taking off on the biggest wave of the day. So it excites me instead of making me nervous. You can look at it as the fear of having the worst wipeout of your life but if you think about making this wave and you’re thinking this actually could be the best wave of my life, this is an opportunity. Turn that fear into something you’re really excited about. You have to settle it in your mind before even paddling out. If I go into the ocean and I am not in the zone, I will most likely be backing out of every wave.

Chad: What have been the most valuable life lessons you have learnt as a consequence of surfing these waves?

Matt: I guess in life you can try and take control of everything, but you can’t have control over everything. It will stress you out if you try control every moment. When you go surf these massive waves, you are so out of control, you’re really left up to Mother Nature and the ocean.  You really are in Gods hands. You learn to take control of your emotions and not panic. I guess overcoming that in big waves; you can take that to your daily life situation. It’s ok that I don’t have control over everything; I can trust this is part of the plan. What it’s taught me is it’s so important to be constantly challenging yourself. It’s so easy to slip into your comfort zone and just stay stagnant in life. Challenging yourself is difficult and it does feel like uphill all the way. Keep pushing and progressing, that’s when you start to find your purpose in life and you really feel like you’re living.   

Chad: Do you think now that you have pushed yourself to a certain level in big wave surfing. Do you think there is a want for bigger and better ?

Matt: Definitely, especially in paddle surfing, there is always bigger and better. You will be out there on the really big days and some of the best big wave riders in the world will watch a set roll through and think to themselves “ That’s untouchable” …. for now. You will think to yourself, “one day I will be in the right spot and in the right mindset to paddle into one of those double ups that will barrel across the whole reef.

Chad: That’s insane! I don’t think I would ever be able to have such a mindset, rather leave it up to you! 🙂

Chad: Any advice for people just starting out surfing, you’ve touched on how scary the ocean can be at times?

Matt: Well, first of all putting yourself into the ocean is putting yourself out of your comfort zone which a really big thing in itself. Weighing up the realistic risk of surfing small waves, your mind can be your friend or your worst enemy. It can play games with you and makes it seem so much worse than it is. You’re not going to drown when the waves are 2ft. The worst thing that can happen is your board might bump you on your head. But if you go under the water and you cover your head then that’s not going to happen. If you have great instructors that give great advice then there is not much to be scared of. The more you push yourself the more exciting it will start to become.

Chad: So I came to your premier of your new surf edit Risky Business. I know you have been working extremely hard on this film and traveling the globe surfing mountains of water to get the best shot. How did the idea come about for the film?

Matt: So Guy Mac is the videographer and editor of Risky Business.  We did everything on a shoe string budget.  He is super ambitious and has big dreams and I’m a lot more calculated.  I met him in Ireland 3 years ago.  After I got back to South Africa he sent me a message saying “ let’s travel and make a movie”. I think people in SA often have a view of themselves as someone who can’t make something massive happen. Maybe they feel they don’t deserve it. And I felt the same way. I said to him “there is no ways we are going to be able to do that” We would really struggle with budgets but he gave me the push I needed to do it and see what will happen along the way. So it was all Guy Mac’s idea. Next thing I know he is on a plane heading over to SA for 2 months. We got some epic footage in SA, headed over to Ireland got some more epic footage there. We then put together a proposal. After the proposal everything started to snowball and sponsors started coming on board. When we got the last Jaw’s section we got by far the best footage I have ever got in my life and we knew we had something really special.  From there it grew and grew and suddenly we had this huge media plan, TV appearances and premiers. Top surfers like Chris Ward, Brad Domke and Damien Hobgood and it felt like we’re so limited here in South Africa and suddenly it’s gone international.

Chad: Crazy how big Risky Business has gotten?! I stood in the queue at the Cape Town premier for an hour to try grab a seat at 1 of 4 theatre that was airing the film that night. There must have been over 400 people there. It was truly inspirational to see what you have achieved.

Matt: At the end of the day I don’t want people to think or to perceive this film as being me showing how great I am. My intention is to show people the film that I didn’t think was possible, show them you can do anything you put your mind to and must not be limited by what everyone else is saying around you.

Chad: Who was the driving force behind Risky Business?

Matt: In the beginning it was Guy and myself dipping into our own pockets and putting all the cash behind it, which put us into some debt. Luckily the proposal we had put together was inviting enough and Monster Energy International and Billabong US came on board and gave us a really good travel budget! Even Lyle Carlson who shaped my Jaws board gave me $1000 towards the film, which was awesome!

Chad: Who are some of your heroes?

Matt: Definitely my dad, he got me into surfing and pushed me into the bigger stuff. He has been  supportive throughout everything, It is incredible.  He knows the dangers of big wave surfing because he surfs the big stuff.  When I am overseas and the waves are really big,  he will be messaging me and encouraging me in the morning but if don’t contact him later, he will be stressing and praying.  It is extremely difficult for him but at the same time he is really supportive.  It is pretty funny now, as the rolls have reversed and  I am  the one taking him out into the bigger stuff.  He is 62 and charging the biggest waves he has ever surfed!

Chad: That’s incredible! I hope when I am in my 60’s I’m still getting in the water but I think I will leave the big wave surfing up to you and your dad!

Chad: Well, Matty you have been an absolute pleasure to chat to this morning and I will be watching you closely on your big wave adventures!

Matt: Thanks Chado

If you have not yet seen the film Risky Business have a look below.