Surfing: Matt Banting focused on returning to the world tour in 2019 ahead of 2018 Surfest in Newcastle

Happy memories: Matt Banting will make his return to the competitive surfing scene at Surfest in Newcastle from February 19. Photo: Ryan Osland
Happy memories: Matt Banting will make his return to the competitive surfing scene at Surfest in Newcastle from February 19. Photo: Ryan Osland

IT has been a while since Matt Banting last put a rash shirt on in a competitive sense – more than 12 months in fact.

But now with a fully-recovered body after a break he had to have, Banting can again “put the rashy back on and feel the emotions.”

Banting will return to a happy hunting ground in Newcastle when he competes at Surfest 2018 from February 19 at Merewether Beach.

“You can try to imitate or mimic the same emotions in a free surf all you want,” Banting said.

“But it’s not the same as when you start winning your heats, gaining points and gaining prizemoney and moving through events.”

“The feeling of winning an event is incredible – it’s all about chasing that feeling of winning.”

It’s a fresh start.

After being off the world tour for 12 months, the 23-year-old will commence the climb back into the top 10 in the world when he hits the water in the Hunter.

The 2014 Surfest winner will enter the year ranked 66 in the world – the top 10 gain a place on the world tour at the end of the year.

So it seems fitting that one of the first contests the Port Macquarie product competes in on his return will be one that he has previously performed well in.

“It’s one of the closest events to home so you can feed off that because you’re also in the same part of the world,” he said.

“The conditions down there might be a tiny bit similar to the waves in Port and I guess some events just suit you more than others. I’ve had a lot of fun in previous years going down there.”

Banting also made the semi-finals in the 2016 event when Matt Wilkinson won the title.

You can try to imitate or mimic the same emotions in a free surf but it’s not the same as when you start winning your heats.

Matt Banting

He knows climbing more than 50 places on the world rankings will take a lot of hard work, but admits he “wouldn’t be doing it if I didn’t think it was achievable.”

“I’ve already been putting in the hard work for three months or so and I want to continue to do that,” Banting said.

“But it does take a lot of time and effort, a lot of travel and money and a lot of emotion that’s for sure.”

The fall out from falling off the world tour meant he lost his sponsor and there was an element of disappointment that followed.

The focus now is on enjoyment.

“It’ll be good to start fresh where there is no pressure from sponsors or anything and just be able to surf for myself,” he said.

“It’s been good to have a year off and realise where I’m at and restart again. I’m feeling better than I did beforehand.”

Following Surfest, Banting will then head to Manly Beach for the Sydney Surf Pro from February 24.

“I won the Manly comp in 2012 so have had good experiences at both locations and you can definitely roll off that,” he said.

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