Torrey Meister has Texan roots but grew up on the Big Island of Hawaii. He flies like a condor and has an array of aerial tricks, but would also make a welcome addition to the Big Wave Tour. He’s never quite nudged his way on to the WCT but after a decade on the WQS he is well qualified to have an opinion about how that tour may be improved. He has a wicked wit and loves to take the piss, but he is dam serious about his love of Country and Western music. He is one of pro surfing’s most interesting guys.

What was the highlight of the recent trip to Simeulue aboard the Mangalui?

Oh man, there is a lot of highlights that come to mind! I must say watching Brodi Sale getting tricked by the crew on the boat by making him believe that we had a fish on the line and watching him reel in an orange bucket for about a half an hour was pretty hilarious. The entire time he thought he was reeling in a 10-pound orange snapper haha. Makes me laugh every time I think about it. Also scoring that slab right that Kyuss got the cover at was pretty special. One of the most random waves I’ve ever scored in Indo with no one out and just the boys sharing waves. One of the many reasons why we go on surf trips. So nice when everything comes together like that. 

Torrey loves a slab and doesn't mind a beer either. Photo Swilly

You have been on the WQS for a number of years ( How many)? Where have you had the most fun?

Yeah it’s been a minute or so haha. I started competing on the QS when I was 16, but didn’t really start going full-on till around 19 or 20. I’m 31 now and I have had a few years off due to injuries and sponsorship, but I’ve always done a few events every year. I would say my favourite place outside of Hawaii is South Africa. They run the event at a good time of year and we always score waves in or around the contest. If it isn’t good for Ballito you can always catch a quick flight to J-bay, Cape Town, Namibia, etc. and get some of the best waves of your life! It’s a place I would go even if there was no contest, not just because the waves are so good but because I love the culture, food, checking out the animals, and I have a lot of really close friends from there so I enjoy it a lot!  

What would you change about the WQS system if you were commissioner for a day?

It’s no secret the waves are pretty bad on the QS. Almost every event is held at a terrible beach break that is usually one foot because they have the events at the worst time of year for those waves or they are just not good surf breaks in general. If I was commissioner for a day I would find surf breaks that would be the most similar to the waves competitors on the CT are competing in. It makes no sense for a surfer to try to qualify in the worst waves on earth to compete in the best waves on earth. Don’t get me wrong, there are some amazing waves on the QS – Pipe, Chile, Indo and Tahiti, but they are rated so low you can’t qualify competing in just those events. That is not right and I think it’s an old way of thinking that needs to be changed as soon as possible. I know that some countries/ cities bring in more revenue due to the amount of fans at those places but we have this crazy thing called the internet we can broadcast from anywhere in the world. Fans are tired of seeing guys do three tiny turns on a bad wave. They want to see guys sending it at crazy slabs and doing huge airs or turns at rip-able waves. This day and age with social media and everything people want to see the best surfing go down in the best conditions plain and simple. Having fewer events, in great waves, with a holding period, at the correct time of year for these surf breaks makes more sense to me. Also throwing in a couple more heavy slabs would definitely be something I would do if I was commissioner.  

Torrey Meister going Kerrupt in Simeulue. Photo: Swilly

You have become something of a Jaws specialist. Like Albee Layer you like to zone in on the West Bowl?

Thank you! I definitely don’t consider myself a specialist at that wave but I do love surfing it and trying my best to figure it out. I feel like every time I surf Jaws I’m learning something new about the place. I’m infatuated with the West Bowl, at Jaws! I just feel like there is so much opportunity to get the biggest barrel of my life and that is always my goal when I’m surfing out there. I think the intensity is addictive to some. It’s kind of one of those things that people either love or hate. For me it’s become something I live for. Honestly, after surfing Jaws I feel a little unsatisfied competing on the QS now due to how intense the entire situation is and how much I enjoy that thrill. When I first started competing as a kid I had that same thrill and after competing for so long it’s just human nature for that thrill to die a little, but when I surf Jaws or heavy waves that feeling is always there and it feels fresh. Makes me feel like a grom again and I love that! To me, no wave that I’ve surfed compares to Jaws. Other waves scare the heck out of me but Jaws scares me the most. Also, the fact that the wave offers the biggest barrel ever makes me lose sleep at night haha in a good way…...  

Steep and deep at Jaws. Photo: Adam Walker

Do you keep a constant eye on Jaws and fly in whenever a swell hits?

In my surfing career right now Jaws is absolutely the main priority. I’ve flown over so many times just in case it could be good for maybe an hour and have gotten completely skunked. But I would rather get skunked than miss an hour of good waves out there. 

What’s your craft of choice (please include dims) when charging Jaws? Is there one or two features of the board that are critical? Particular rail or forward volume to paddle? Less length so you can get under the lip? Rocker?  

Honestly, I’m not super familiar with my dimensions. The best board that I ever had out there was an 8’6" shaped by Dan Boehne, from Infinity Surfboards. It was the El Nino winter back in ’15- '16 and it was my first year of surfing at Jaws. I had broken two 10’6"'s on previous swells and had no boards. Dan from Infinity had shaped a board for Albee that was lying under the house and he let me use it. That ended up being the board I got all my best waves on that year. Now I’m a little more prepared I get my Jaws boards from S.O.S (same shaper Albee only rides at Jaws). I usually ride an 8’8" and if it’s super gigantic I ride a 9’6". I usually tend to ride a smaller board because I like to hang on the West bowl and have found that the smaller boards are better for knifing the wave there for me. I don’t know the exact dimensions on my SOS’s boards because I kind of just tell him a size I want and he whips me out something that always works at Jaws. Also rode them at Mavs and they felt really good. Definitely, a lot of forward volume for paddling and a swallowtail so I can turn the thing. 

You have also made a couple of cameos on the Big Wave Tour, but thus far failed to secure a permanent spot?

Yeah haven’t gotten a spot yet but hopefully it will come eventually but until then I’m just gonna keep enjoying surfing big waves with my friends.

All smiles onboard the Mangalui for a recent Tracks trip. 

Can you roughly explain how the spots for the tour are chosen?

You submit a video of your biggest, best waves from that season. The more big wave spots you have in the video the better, so it looks like you are chasing swells around the world. There is a voting system apparently among the big wave tour competitors, commissioners, and people involved with the big wave tour. This is just what I’m told and I’ve only ever submitted videos. 

If you were BWT commissioner what would you change about the system?

I’m not exactly certain what I would change because I’ve never been in an event before. I’ve been around a few and I would say the judging can be a little skeptical at times but it is like that on the QS and CT. I think that just comes with a sport that has judges and their different opinions. Also, I think priority could be better. These are the things I hear from my friends, who are on tour. I think the broadcast could be better as well! Big wave events are the most exciting events in pro surfing and even people who don’t surf can appreciate competitors risking their lives on monstrous walls of water.  

Any particular waves you’d like to see added to that tour?

I think for the most part they have the most consistent big waves on the tour schedule. There are other waves around the world that are incredible big wave spots on their day but they are much harder to get good than Jaws, Nazare, and Mavs. Maybe Puerto could be a good addition to the tour as well. 

Could guys like you bring a higher performance level to the BWT or is it just about charging?

I mean obviously you have to charge but now guys like Albee, Kai, Billy, Nate, Lucas, Russell have crazy techniques and are trying to get barreled on the biggest waves possible. To me that’s the kind of surfing I want to see and do. So I think those guys are bringing a whole new dynamic to the tour and it’s exciting. Not to say guys weren’t doing that before but a guy like Albee is gonna go out to Jaws and hunt the barrel the entire heat and I love that mentality! It’s the future of big wave surfing and there is a whole group of guys who are doing that now, which is pushing everyone to do the same.

You like to cut your clips with country and western tunes. Obviously, you are a fan but it’s also fun. Do pro surfers need to remember to have fun and not take themselves too seriously sometimes. Not fear getting creative?

I love country music and I listen to it 24/7. It is just something I enjoy and I thought that it would be fun to put it over some surfing clips. So I started hashtagging Western Wednesday and putting a post up every Wednesday. It’s been about four years since I started. It’s been nothing but fun and I just do it because I want people to enjoy country music as much as I do. I’m 100% for creativity and you have to have fun with your surfing. There is a time to have fun and to be serious. But as far as western music over surfing goes, I wasn’t trying to be different or anything like that I just simply love country music and the songs are always stuck in my head while I’m surfing so why would I not put them over my surfing in an edit?  

Do you have Texan roots?

Yes, I have a lot of roots in Texas. My dad is from Texas and his side of the family all live there still. I guess it’s just in my blood to love country music and be a redneck.

You grew up on the Big Island. Kilauea Volcano has caused havoc in recent years. Have you or your friends and family been affected?

Yes, I have had a lot of close friends affected by the volcano. It’s sad to see the destruction that was caused by her path. Peoples’ homes, properties completely engulfed in lava, not to mention four really good waves are gone now. Waves that a lot of my friends who are from there learned how to surf at are completely gone forever. I couldn’t imagine how that would feel. We used to have contests at these waves growing up. Some of my favorite waves on the Big Island. People are very positive about it. Everyone I spoke to just accepted it and understands that nature rules where we are from. I guess there is some kind of bliss to that, man not being able to rule everything and the mana of the Big Island being so strong. 

Torrey testing out his switch pig-dog just to keep things interesting. Photo: SWilly

Do you ever secretly hope that the lava will spill into the ocean and create another classic surf break?

I mean of course if the Lava is gonna cover everything I always hope that it will create some kind of great wave in the process but unfortunately it usually just destroys the waves we already have.

If a travelling surfer visits the Big Island what’s important to remember? What’s worth doing besides surfing?  

Just to be respectful of the land and people who live there. We are a Big Island but a small community and we stand together. Don’t expose secret spots on social media and definitely don’t take the lava rocks off of the island that is a huge no-no. There is a lot to do on the Big Island besides surfing. It’s one of the most beautiful places on the planet! The land changes so drastically as you drive around the island it is so bizarre. So if you go there rent a car and take your time because there is so much beauty to be seen. Also going with a local helps a lot because the surf breaks are hard to find.