Born to Maroubra stock, raised in the shadow of the Bra Boys, led over the ledge by the infamous Abberton brothers, Mark Mathews is a relatively quiet, unassuming character considering. For as long as people have been negotiating the stair steps at places like Shipsterns Bluff, Ours, Cyclopes and the like, Mathews has been right in the mix, usually supported by longtime mate Richie "Vas" Vaculik. Together the pair star in the new documentary 'Fighting Fear,' Mathews as the kid saved by surfing, Vaculik as the street wise, hard scrabble MMA hopeful. The film premiered in Australia earlier this month, and ESPN Surfing recently caught up with Mathews to get his take on it all.
Where did the idea for the movie come from?
Macario DeSouza, who's is one of our best friends and was the co-director of 'Bra Boys,' he was looking for another project to do. Rich and I couldn't see that it would be worth doing, but Mac was psyched on it and talked us around. The next step was getting a budget to do it, and the only ones who backed us were the boys at Garage Entertainment, they made it all happen financially
And how long have you been working on it?
Three years -- two part-time, and one year full time.
What are some of the challenges you've faced making it?
The night shoot we did at Ours was the hardest thing to organize. It was worth it though.
What's your take on where things have gone in terms of charging slab type waves?
I think it has gotten close to the limit of what is out there. There are not many bigger waves to tow. That's why it has gone full circle and now everyone is pushing themselves paddling.
What wave out there scares you the most?
The Right in Western Australia because the hold downs are so long and violent ... and the last three times we have been down there someone has spotted a great white.
Who's charging the hardest?
I think Richie Vass and Ryan Hippwood are up there, and also Laurie Towner and Shane Dorian. And of course, Bruce Irons and Nathan Fletcher have been going big lately.
How do you prepare mentally and physically between swells?
I never used to train all that much, but I've started to do a a lot more pool training. I have some programs from a free diver named Nam Balidwin that I have been doing and they are helping the confidence levels.
What's your routine right before you paddle out?
I try and focus on what the waves are doing, which ones look the best, what direction they are coming from, are the good ones the first wave of the set, how deep can you take of on them, etc. Then I like doing some deep breathing techniques while I'm paddling out or on the back of the ski.
Back to the film, what messages are you trying to get across with the dual storylines?
It's really about the importance of friendship and how having that one good friend can change your life. Then there are alcohol and street violence issues and how they can ruin your life if you're not careful.
Growing up where you did, surfing the waves you did, who's inspired you the most over the years?
I get most of my inspiration from my friends who are out there working the hardest, not just in sport, but in whatever they are doing. I was never a super talented surfer, I needed to work really hard to get this career.
Best wave you've ever ridden?
I got a 10 at Pipe in the Monster Energy Pro years ago, it's still my favorite wave.
Worst beating you've ever suffered?
There is one in our movie from Shipsterns Bluff in Tasmania years ago. I was knocked unconscious and thought I had broken my neck. It took me along time to come back from.