Last year tour rookie, Matt Banting, took himself out of the WCT equation when he dislocated his knee while attempting an alley-oop at J-bay, in the lead up to the event. Doctors told Banting he’d smashed his femur against his tibia, bruised the bones and made a colossal mess of his knee joint. Matt subsequently earned the 2016, WCT injury wildcard and after six months in the gym is determined to make an impact on this year’s tour. Below he talks about some of the radical treatment he underwent, the agony of watching from the sidelines and why the Australians need to back one another up like the Brazilians.

Tracks: How fit are you in terms of being ready to compete?

Matt Banting: I’m real gym fit. It’s just got to translate a bit to surfing … because of all the rehab stuff my leg’s gotten so strong, now I just need a bit more flexibility and a bit more surfing … I’ll kind of start backing off my work in the gym and getting more into surfing.

What sort of gym training have you been doing?

I’ve been working with a strength and conditioning guy and I work with Chris Prosser (Chris is the WSL doctor) on the specific knee stuff because my knee wasn’t tracking right. The patella/kneecap was tracking to the side and everything was kind of f%$#ked up from there so we had try and move a few muscles on the inside of the leg that pull the kneecap towards the centre. Everything’s started running perfectly but there’s just been a lot of strength training to try and build the meat on the bones before the new year kicks off. I think the base strength will help for the bigger waves like Fiji.

So you feel like you have added a bit of power to your surfing and the injury may turn out to be a blessing in disguise?

It’s going to be a blessing for sure to have that bit of oomph and power. I’ve put on a couple of kilos … but everything will be getting a bit lighter as I head into the Australian Open and Surfest … it’ll be less gym training and more into the comp side of things. I’ve been shooting with Quikkie and I’ve got a few little trips coming up also.

Did you resort to any radical treatments?

I did a few of the PRP injections with the sports doctor from the Brisbane Lions. He was sucking blood out of my arm and pumping it into my knee … they put it into a machine and then pump it into you fifteen or twenty minutes later. It must just create a bunch of good blood cells … it’s designed to give it like 10 times the healing power.

It f$#%en hurts though, you’ve got to be psyched up to do it… this big needle goes into the middle of your knee cap… you gotta bend your knee and he squirts this blood for about ten seconds and it’s the most excruciating pain in the world.

I asked him for an anaesthetic one but he said no. Every time I went I up there I had to put a shirt over my head and just clinch … bite on it and just lock up for ten seconds. It’s so painful that every time I drove up there I’d get sweaty palms and sweaty feet going in there. I’d say, ‘I’m so unhappy to see you again today and he’d say ‘don’t worry mate I’ve just done the same procedure with three grannies.’ After he said that I was like ‘I’m sweet.’

How long have you been back in the water?

I’ve been in the water for a couple of months … probably the start of December I started surfing… but I was really tentative. I’d always be going for stuff and flicking off the back. I wasn’t really surfing. It wasn’t really fun because I was really wary and I felt like I was going to break a leg. After a bit of training and as soon as I started getting some strength back on the leg and it got back to its normal size and I could move it and do exercise, that’s when it started getting better.

You must be pretty excited about getting back into the competitive zone?

I can’t wait. The last six months it’s played around with my head that much. After it happened I was so depressed and then I picked back up and then I was out of the water for so long that I kind of lost the feeling of what it does for you. Then the last few weeks I’ve just been getting so into it and loving it. Even Australia day all my friends wanted to party and I surfed in the morning and trained in the middle of the day. I don’t know, after having so much time at home to party a bit and then realise that’s what everyone does at home, they work all week and party all weekend. It was just shit. It made realise that I so want to nail this.

So the experience gave you some perspective on how good it is to be well-paid professional surfer?

Yeah, I just want to be at the top of the ladder and live a lavish lifestyle. Surfing’s so good and I feel like it’s given me so much already… it gives you a step back and a whole chance to look at the big picture. I’m so hungry put it that way. When I was on tour part of me was a little bit like ‘I’m only 18,19, 20 and 21 and I haven’t even been to a festival yet. I’d think I’ve always been travelling and always been on the road and therefore felt that I’m missing some of those festivities sort of thing. A lot of people might think ‘why do you want to be at home partying with your mates when you can travel the world?’ You do feel like you’re missing out a bit … But I’m a bit more appreciative now which is good. Now I realise I’m travelling, doing well in comps, meeting new people, seeing new places every week … winning money and surfing is so good. Being home for a few months has made me appreciate it 100 times more.

Did you take the chance to do something away from surfing?

I went over the US Open after it happened because I’d been home for a month and a half and it was doing my head in. I went over there and we travelled out west and went camping. We went out in the desert out into the boonies ... that was something different.

Have you watched the surfing closely from the sidelines?

I did, but I was getting that eggy about not being in the contests that it would make me kind of half depressed so a few I either turned it off or didn’t even watch it and then a few others I watched the whole contest from start to finish. I was a bit up and down. Some comps would give me a bit of emotion, some would drive me to want to be back there and some would leave me devastated. Trestles at the start was like ‘far out I should be there!’

Did you learn anything by being on the outside looking in?

Going into last year I felt like I had a bubble going over my head. It felt so narrow-minded and pressured, now I feel so comfortable about everything. I feel comfortable coming into Snapper and I feel like I actually feel like I deserve to be there.

Any other advantages to having the break?

I’ve sorted out my boards a lot. In my down time I had a lot of time to think about what felt good and what didn’t feel good. I did a bit of study and watched a few other people and I’ve finally perfected my perfect volume and everything to get my boards down. You don’t want to be stuffing around with boards while you are on the road. We’ve experimented with it a little bit and we’ve dialled it in.

Whose boards are you riding?

I’ve been with Luke Short from LSD for about the past 4-6 years but I’ve been trying a couple of Merricks.

What volume are you riding and what are you looking for in your boards?

I’ve narrowed it down to about 25 litres and I weigh about 71 or 72kg’s. I wanted the least amount of foam possible but still being able to paddle and push back on a bit of foam. Some guys are riding boards that are too boxy and not responsive enough and other guys are on boards that are too knifey and don’t have enough foam to push any spray on. You just have to get that perfect medium.

What did you take away from Adriano’s world title victory?

I loved it. Just to see where he’s coming from. His whole story… if someone did that from Australia everyone would be wigging out … cause ‘he’s not the most easy on the eye surfer everyone kind of judges him but if you put him in a heat or judged his athleticism and his ability he’s so good.

Have you surfed against him before?

I’ve had him in a heat or two before, I beat him at Surfest a couple of years ago in a semi final and I was looking at the heat and thinking that this is like a final­ – Adriano in 3-4ft slop –­ he’s the king of that stuff. He was in good form … In the quarter-final they were calling out ‘Adriano that’s a ten and that’s a 9.5’ as I came in from the quarter before. I was thinking, ‘How is this guy?’ But like I said I’ve got so much respect for him… Everyone’s got their own little opinions but I reckon he’s great.

Does Adriano’s victory send a message that it’s not necessarily the guy with the most flair who is going to win the world title?

Yeah, not always Mr Popular is going to win the world title … Adriano was all about hunger and dedication. I can’t even imagine the amount of hard work and dedication he must have put in throughout the year.

You must draw some confidence from the fact that you have beaten the world champion when he’s in good form?

Yeah, exactly and it’s like another guy was saying to me why do you do Manly and Newcastle where if you get knocked out first round or second round it blows your confidence for the Quikkie Pro… I said ‘shut up, last year I got knocked first round at Manly and second round at Newcastle and then went up and beat Mick Fanning in the first round of the Quikkie Pro’… You’re only as good as your last heat. You’ve just got to leave everything behind. If you’re coming off a win you’re so confident and then you can have a couple of losses but it’s a matter of training the mind to be confident 24/7… the start of a new comp could be the kick start for a new career. I remember that Aussie Open did it for me … (In 2012 Matt won the Junior and Opens event of the Aussie Opens) You never what’s around the next corner.

What do you think about having a few new Australian faces on tour this year with Davey Cathels, Jack Freestone, Stu Kennedy and Ryan Callinan?

… Last year as rookies I only had Wiggolly who is so much older than me – like seven years older­ – and Italo who’s a legend but can hardly speak English … you can only be so close to them. Riccardo Christie and I would have a chat and a little debrief ... but this year it will be sick to have a chat with guys like Ryan, Jack and Davey that I’ve grown up competing with since I was 12. We’ve all come from the same upbringing … it’s just good to see some Aussies on there too.

Does having the Australian presence on tour help you guys to push one another along?

Yeah, exactly I think this year it will drive us big time. The Brazilians have had it for years with Miguel, Jadson, Toledo and Medina all feeding off one another.

It seems like Australia and Brazil have emerged as surfing’s two surfing super powers who are fighting for supremacy?

We gotta start performing more like them, start taking more flags down the stairs and start using the whistles like them … We gotta stick together like they do and they always back each other … go to QS’s and you’ll see them in a big group because they do it tough. They hire out a big place and a mini van to do it cheaper and then cheer each other on to the death. Then you see some Aussies who get so jealous of one another they’re just the complete opposite. I remember being in Mexico on the way to qualifying and you could really tell who were your real friends and who wasn’t. There were a few people sitting down the beach, they weren’t even clapping 75-85 % of them. You could tell that your real mates would come up and give you a genuine congratulations… it’s weird how Australia has got that bit of jealousy. It would be good if we could all get behind one another but we’ll see … a couple of whistles and a pat on the back would be good.

Is it hard to draw the line between when it’s time to be one of the boys and when it’s time to focus on your individual performance?

Being friendly with everyone and having a good time but when it comes to the crunch…Even in Fiji the boys can get a little bit funny with the tour rookies. Even last year I heard that Bede was throwing a few snakes at guys and stuff.

So there is still a bit of a culture on tour whereby if you are a rookie you still have to pay your dues so to speak?

A little bit I think, but I just try and stay out of it.