“Why would I give somebody else my money?”

He’s flown high and fast enough to rip the fabric of time in two, yet somehow transitioned from World Tour vigilante to devoted family man quicker and cleaner than the frontside straighty with which he made his mark. So we ask you, who better than Matt Archbold to shed light on the perils of life, death and taxes? Simply put, these are the 10 life lessons of an original inked rebel…

Money… My record for spending cash? Jesus… I couldn’t put a price tag on it… Bankrupt. Looking back, I should have been more assertive to my sponsors. They tried to take the best of me at that point. I remember being five years in and somebody said something about taxes and I was like “What’s that?” And they said “you’ve got to pay them.” And I said “For what?” “For all the money you make.” I went “Fuck that! I’m not giving them my money, I made that money! Why would I give somebody else my money?” That’s how I thought back then, and it got me in trouble.

More Core Division… MCD fired me a couple of times. They didn’t care if I surfed contests, they’d say, “Go do what you want,” so I did, but surfing was their stipulation and sometimes I wouldn’t surf for a month or two. I’d be going out getting in trouble instead. Then I’d come back and have to ask them, “What are you doing to my contract? I’m fine,” and they’d rehire me. Maybe they were worried about me? I don’t know. That was the weird part about their whole “More Core thing” …Or whatever. When it first came out, they did a poster with me, Pottz, Cheyne Horan and Brock Little. Then later on down the line they signed Andy and Koby, but I don’t know what they were thinking when they hired me. “Here I am,” you know? At least I was up front about it. The sponsors were probably doing the same stuff behind closed doors. What I did was out in public. I just wanted to push it. Push it to the limit, as far as I could. It’s in my DNA, I guess. “I yam what I yam.” [Mock Popeye Accent]

Child Prodigies… I just jumped on a plane and went. I didn’t have a manager or anyone. In those days a lot of guys on the tour were from southern California, so I’d just jump in a car, and say “Hey man, where are you staying?” Getting paid to surf at such a young age made it hard to keep your head on straight, but I tried to stay humble. I dropped out of high school, and grew up real quick, which turned out to be the best education I could ask for. Lucky for me, I had it in with people like Terry Richardson – he took me under his wing. I used to stay at his house down the Gong; they were killer times.

John John… I could see he was driven, even when he was really young. I remember him grabbing rail when he got his first sponsor. Even when the cameras stopped rolling he’d be out there. He wasn’t afraid of big waves but I thought “It only takes one unlucky wipeout to get pounded and he’s gonna wake up.” That didn’t happen. He proved himself for sure, making big money and backing it up. That’s hard to do, with all the pressure. But he’s a mellow guy and he handles it. That’s the best deal about John.

“I realised I shouldn’t have to conform to the whole contest-jock thing.”

In the early years of commercial Pro Surfing, only a select few renegades held the antidote. Archy was one of ’em. (Jason Reposar)

Excess… In places like France we’d be drinking ‘til five in the morning and try and surf a heat the next day hungover. I wouldn’t change that part of it, ever. You never get those times back, even if I can’t remember half of ‘em. They might make more money now, but we had way more fun. The pros today are too serious.

The Work Farm… I got a 502, which is a DUI, which was my third strike. I did six and a half months in prison. The worst thing about it was just sitting there. Wintertime, spring, summer. Everybody is so close to you. Even when you go take a shit, you have to sit right next to some dude, with a big window in front where people walk by. Wasting time, day after day. Dealing with everybody talking shit in your ears when you just want to say “Shutup!” You know? But you have to play along or else you get in fights. It’s just so stupid. At the end I was in minimum security which is like a work farm, you’re not behind bars, but you’re surrounded by razor wire and all that shit. You can go off site, for your job placement. You go out there and dig trenches, but I was too much trouble, I wasn’t allowed to leave the premises. I wanted it so bad, begging them like “c’mon please!” But they made me an orderly instead, I had to mop up the floors and clean the chairs where everyone sat. It was such a bummer. I missed surfing so much during that time. It made me appreciate things so much more when I finally did get out. I took it all for granted. My advice? You’re not above the law. They’ll catch you sooner or later.

Raising a Grom… I have a six year old daughter and we hang out. I help her with her homework and spend all the time I can with her. Ford’s doing his own thing and I respect him for that. I tried to push him when he was younger but he’s almost 26 now so I can’t push him too hard. If he came to me and asked for advice I would tell him from experience what’s right, but he doesn’t really do that too often. If he ever needs anything from me I’m always there.

Groms Today… Nobody pays their dues anymore and it really bugs me. These days groms just get pampered. I mean… do they even wax their own boards these days? You can’t yell at them because they’ll tell mummy or their lawyer. There’s no real pecking order in the lineup anymore, but there should be. The parents are to blame, because they’re on the beach, hiring coaches, and of course they want their kid to be the best, but if they’re going to teach them how to surf they need to explain that, “You should have respect for your elders, even if they aren’t a pro surfer. They have been out there for longer than you. You’ll be the top of that order one day.” I just burn them. They’ll learn.

Reputation… It got to the point on tour where I thought, “They’re not judging me fair.” So I said, “I’m over it, fuck you guys. I’m just going to do my own thing.” I realised I shouldn’t have to conform to the whole contest-jock thing. So I went out on my own and got in trouble a whole bunch. I had my days of partying and missed a lot of planes. After a contest I’d disappear for a month or two, which was really good because I had money coming in, no worries. I did what I wanted, when I wanted; cruise, hang, party. I never stopped to think about it. I used to rage hard. And people liked it, but it was always my decision. When things got out of control it took over me for a while, like self-destruction. On the other side, attitude in bigger waves was important because you needed a little cockiness to make it. You couldn’t have any doubt back then.

Death… The one that always stands out was out in the Mentawaiis with Art Brewer. We were way out, and I took the first wave of the set. Things didn’t go my way, and I was held underwater for waves, getting pounded ‘til I just gave up. I thought I was done. I started blacking out and barely floated up in the lagoon. The gnarly thing about it is nobody realised. They were still out on the boat shooting photos. I paddled in and they were like, “Oh hey, what’s up?” And I went “Man, I almost died!” and it’s like “Yeah ok, are you going back out?” Forget that! I sat on the boat for so long just thinking “God that’s the closest I’ve ever come to dying,” I brought myself up, but it was heavy duty. I keep thinking about it, because we were in Sumatra, in the middle of nowhere. As you get older you look back thinking, “Wow there was this time, and that time. I would never have had my kids.” It gets weirder as you get older. I try not to think about it too much. 

Dive on the new Surfing World Issue #388 available July 6th!

Hugh Wyllie