F-k It

F-k ItMatt Archbold is trying hard to give a damn. We love the Matt Archbolds of the world. Like bulls in china shops, or rock stars in expensive hotel rooms, they move through life without concern about breaking things, rules, leases, trust. We secretly aspire to their carelessness, their reckless approach to consumption, opinion, fashion, and regurgitation. They embody the desire that lives in all of us to say “f-k it,” let the gym membership expire, start showering infrequently, show no concern as they tow the car away, and offer a beer to the men sent to repossess our furniture. Because of their talent, we forgive the Matt Archbolds of the world their transgressions, and we take their carelessness as a sign of how truly gifted they are.

At 36 Matt Archbold has lived an erratic life. A native of Southern California, Archy (a nickname that fits well with his affinity for 1950s Americana like hot rods, big tattoos, and the music of the Stray Cats) has been everything from a high school dropout to a competitor on surfing’s biggest stage. In The Encyclopedia Of Surfing, Matt Warshaw refers to Archy as “one of the sport’s great natural talents.” At sixteen, he was surfing on the world tour, but the structure of competitive surfing didn’t reward the things he was able to do on a surfboard. Taking after his childhood idol, Martin Potter, Matt and fellow San Clemente local Christian Fletcher spent the late 1980s mastering the aerial and laying the groundwork for modern surfing. Archy had everything. Speed, balance, nimble reflexes, and a tendency to say “f-k it” and dive into the deep end of excess.

Trouble with the law, drugs, and money has plagued Matt throughout his adult life. The attitude that helped propel him to the top of surfing by giving him the appearance of never caring enough to have to try hard is also the anchor he has to drag around when he’s not in the lineup.

A recent sponsor change from O’Neill to RVCA has given Matt a new lease on his surfing. He’s motivated, he’s in the water three times a day, he’s traveling, and he’s trying hard to cut out the partying. When he stopped by TransWorld on a cold autumn day in early December, I was surprised by how soft-spoken he is. While he’s been called everything from “wild” to “monosyllabic,” I found him humble and self-deprecating to the point of almost seeming apologetic. It’s as if he’s trying with every fiber of his being to rid himself of those two little words: “f-k” and “it.”-

J.P. How old were you when you started surfing?

Eleven. I’ll be 36 next week.

What do you think about getting older?

I think it just depends on how you feel. I feel better these days than I did when I was younger. When I was younger, I was partying more. I’m in better shape now than I was in my twenties.

So, by “feeling better” you mean being in better shape?

Better shape and … well … always learning. You know? I think I’m just building more knowledge. Just consuming data. Input. When I’m on a wave, I’m still trying to figure stuff out. For me, it’s like slowing my mind down when I’m on a wave. Like I’ve been way more into what’s going on with my boards, and I feel like I’m way more in tune with what’s going on with ’em. All the knowledge builds up, and you’ve got to put it to some use. Before I was like, “F-k it, I don’t care. Give me a board, I don’t give a shit. I just want to go surf and go party, or whatever.” I didn’t think about stuff much. But I’m thinking about things more because I want to get better.

What’s prompted you to think about it more? Is it something that just comes with age?

I think so. You get over just not caring and partying, you know? I want to learn more. Put more back into it.

Do you think in the past not caring was good for your surfing?

Yeah, I think so. I think there’re certain surfers who can plan things out. Like (Mike) Parsons. I always think of him as the planner-whether it’s how he plans his waves or the way he plans hisareer. Whereas me, I just took it day by day. I didn’t really know what I was doing. He’d be the type of guy that would fill up his car full of gas, a full tank, and I’d be the type of guy that’d put in two bucks, ’cause who knows when the car is gonna break down. That’s the way I look at it.

Do you ever wish you would have planned more?

Yeah. That’s one of my regrets, probably. I had some fun, I guarantee I probably had more fun than a lot of the guys out there, but I’m paying for it now. I’m trying to play catch-up in every way.

Are you catching up?

Yeah, I’m trying. Not right now, though-I’m broke.

Is that one of the main things you mean by planning, like the financial stuff?

Yeah, ’cause I never planned for the future. I’d get money and then it’d be done. I put off a lot off things-a house, that kind of thing. I had a house. I don’t know why I sold it. I got rid of it and broke even, but I should’ve kept it, rented it out, and did the smart thing, but I was only like 21 or 22, and I didn’t give a shit. And that’s been my whole life, I guess. That’s why I’ve been trying to figure things out. I’m not good in those kinds of situations. I’m more of an on-the-spot surfer or skater. When it comes to money and the financial stuff, I get flustered.

So how do you deal with it? Do you have somebody who helps you deal with it?No, not really. It’s been a struggle for me.

It’s part of getting older.

Yeah. I’m slowly dealing with it-IRS problems, dealing with the DMV, all that shit.

Anything with three letters. How do you feel about that stuff? Is it scary or is it a hassle?

It’s a pain in the ass. It’s not scary-it’s a little stressful, ’cause it’s hard to plan for the future when I know I have these things hanging over me. This year, I’ve been trying to deal with that stuff, but next year I think is going to be a lot better.

This is the year of confronting all that stuff and taking care of it.Exactly. I need to deal with these problems one at a time. I always seem to have all these things at one time, and I can’t deal with it. When it gets like that, I’m going surfing.

At least you have surfing.

Yeah, if I didn’t have surfing, I’d be f-ked.

What about the partying, how’s that going?

Good. Yeah, I mean I slip up here and there … not as gnarly as I used to, but I’m just human, you know?

Do you find that it snowballs if you start partying?

It can if I’m not in the right frame of mind. I’ve got to be careful with that, and I know that. I’ve been doing really good. As long as I stay busy and focused, everything’s good. When all my problems start to build up, I’m one of those guys who just says, “F-k it. I’m over everything.” And I ain’t done that in a long time. As I get older, I realize I can’t do that anymore.

How long’s it been since the last time you thought, “F-k it”?

(Laughs) Um … like a couple days now. (Laughter) Just kidding. It’s been … months? I’ve had a slipup that lasted a couple days, but other than that, it’s been almost a year. They’ve (the slipups) have been getting shorter. Like I’ll just “f-k it” and disappear for a week or something. Nothing really bad-just getting away. It’s all frustration.

What do you end up doing when you disappear? Are you drinking? Or is it drugs?Oh yeah, drinking and drugs. I like drinking a lot, but then drugs come into the picture, and I have ’em. I’d rather just drink.

Is it hard to beat?

Yeah. And the more you’re out there, the more you realize that everybody’s on drugs (laughs) … some kind of drug. It’s like, “Wow, I’m not so f-ked up!”You have two kids (Ford and Ruby), how do you think the partying affects them?

Well, Ruby lives with her mom in South Carolina, so it doesn’t really affect her. But Ford lives with me full time, and he’s seen me battle with it over the years. I don’t ever drink or do anything in front of him. I know it’s better that I keep that away from him. He knows what’s up, and he’s supportive. He’s in a good place right now; he’s happy.

How do you keep it away from him?

Well, it depends. If you’re just gonna have a couple beers, that’s cool. But if you’re gonna get hammered, and go out and drink drink, I’d rather just go out. You know, go away.

Do you see things in Ford that remind you of yourself?

Oh, yeah. (Laughs) He gets pissed off pretty easy. I try to tell him to have patience. I’m there. I’m always there. We’re like best buds. It’s pretty rare to have your dad always there for you, every single day. We go skate, we go surf, we do everything together. It’s rad. I tell him he should appreciate that-not a lot of kids have that.

Was your dad involved with you like you are with Ford.

He tried as much as he could, but he had to work full time. I just surf for a living, so I’ve always been there. When it comes to surfing, I’m like the little kid. I get surf stoked. It can be a one-foot day or a ten-foot day, and I’m always like, “Come on, get up, let’s go surf!” But he kind of sleeps in. (Laughs) I give him a hard time. He’ll wake up, and I’ll be sitting there looking at him, going, “Get up!” He looks at me all tired (Matt squints his eyes and makes a tired expression) and just goes, “Ohhhhh, no.” We kind of reverse roles. He’s like the responsible one. He’s more mature than me in ways.Do you have the dream for him to do the pro-surf-career thing?

Yeah. I know school’s important. I dropped out of high school, and I want him to stay in high school and graduate, and we’ll go from there. If he’s happy and his surfing is progressing, I’ll think about putting him on the tour. I hope he does it a little smarter than me. I just wanted to get out there and go. When I was sixteen, I just left.

What if he wants that?

I’m gonna have him wait. When I bailed on school, I’d just been with (Martin) Potter, and he was like fifteen when he first turned pro, and he was my favorite-so I wanted to do that.

What did your parents think about you dropping out of high school?

My dad wasn’t too stoked. My mom was like, “Well, you’ve got a chance to go see the world … to travel. Go.” I guess she thought it would be a pretty good education.

Has being a father affected the “f-k it” attitude?

Yeah, I can’t do that. I’m not perfect, I get impatient sometimes, but who doesn’t? Sometimes I’ll hear that someone said something about me that I don’t like, and I’ll just shut down. I gotta change that.

I guess you’re famous, and there’ll always be people who talk about you behind your back.

I stay out of other people’s lives, and I wish they’d stay out of mine.How has hooking up with RVCA affected your outlook on surfing?

I’ve had good sponsors my whole career, and I was stoked that they gave me a chance. I’m stoked on RVCA-they’re a change from the normal surf brand. It’s kind of like a family.

Do you regret any of the tattoos?

No.

Are you getting more?

Yeah. I want to get more, but lately I’ve been surfing a lot, and it’s hard because I have to stay out of the water for a week every time I get one. It f-kin’ hurts, too! (Laughs) When I was younger, it didn’t hurt as bad, but these days it’s like, “F-k! That hurts, man!” Skin’s getting thin (laughs).What’s your latest tattoo?

(Matt kind of looks around his arms for a few seconds then touches his neck just behind the right side of his jaw where there’s an outline of a spider) I got a spider on my neck, but it’s not even done yet. I get so amped for the next one that I don’t even finish. I still gotta get my stomach done.

How old were you when you got the “Built For Speed” tattoo on the back of your neck?

Twenty-one? Something like that.

What inspired that?

I like going fast. For me, the main thing about surfing is speed. And I used to listen to the Stray Cats a lot. You know that song “Built For Speed”-I just thought, “F-k, I gotta get that tattooed on my neck or something.” It fits me, because everything I do, I like to do really fast. I in a good place right now; he’s happy.

How do you keep it away from him?

Well, it depends. If you’re just gonna have a couple beers, that’s cool. But if you’re gonna get hammered, and go out and drink drink, I’d rather just go out. You know, go away.

Do you see things in Ford that remind you of yourself?

Oh, yeah. (Laughs) He gets pissed off pretty easy. I try to tell him to have patience. I’m there. I’m always there. We’re like best buds. It’s pretty rare to have your dad always there for you, every single day. We go skate, we go surf, we do everything together. It’s rad. I tell him he should appreciate that-not a lot of kids have that.

Was your dad involved with you like you are with Ford.

He tried as much as he could, but he had to work full time. I just surf for a living, so I’ve always been there. When it comes to surfing, I’m like the little kid. I get surf stoked. It can be a one-foot day or a ten-foot day, and I’m always like, “Come on, get up, let’s go surf!” But he kind of sleeps in. (Laughs) I give him a hard time. He’ll wake up, and I’ll be sitting there looking at him, going, “Get up!” He looks at me all tired (Matt squints his eyes and makes a tired expression) and just goes, “Ohhhhh, no.” We kind of reverse roles. He’s like the responsible one. He’s more mature than me in ways.Do you have the dream for him to do the pro-surf-career thing?

Yeah. I know school’s important. I dropped out of high school, and I want him to stay in high school and graduate, and we’ll go from there. If he’s happy and his surfing is progressing, I’ll think about putting him on the tour. I hope he does it a little smarter than me. I just wanted to get out there and go. When I was sixteen, I just left.

What if he wants that?

I’m gonna have him wait. When I bailed on school, I’d just been with (Martin) Potter, and he was like fifteen when he first turned pro, and he was my favorite-so I wanted to do that.

What did your parents think about you dropping out of high school?

My dad wasn’t too stoked. My mom was like, “Well, you’ve got a chance to go see the world … to travel. Go.” I guess she thought it would be a pretty good education.

Has being a father affected the “f-k it” attitude?

Yeah, I can’t do that. I’m not perfect, I get impatient sometimes, but who doesn’t? Sometimes I’ll hear that someone said something about me that I don’t like, and I’ll just shut down. I gotta change that.

I guess you’re famous, and there’ll always be people who talk about you behind your back.

I stay out of other people’s lives, and I wish they’d stay out of mine.How has hooking up with RVCA affected your outlook on surfing?

I’ve had good sponsors my whole career, and I was stoked that they gave me a chance. I’m stoked on RVCA-they’re a change from the normal surf brand. It’s kind of like a family.

Do you regret any of the tattoos?

No.

Are you getting more?

Yeah. I want to get more, but lately I’ve been surfing a lot, and it’s hard because I have to stay out of the water for a week every time I get one. It f-kin’ hurts, too! (Laughs) When I was younger, it didn’t hurt as bad, but these days it’s like, “F-k! That hurts, man!” Skin’s getting thin (laughs).What’s your latest tattoo?

(Matt kind of looks around his arms for a few seconds then touches his neck just behind the right side of his jaw where there’s an outline of a spider) I got a spider on my neck, but it’s not even done yet. I get so amped for the next one that I don’t even finish. I still gotta get my stomach done.

How old were you when you got the “Built For Speed” tattoo on the back of your neck?

Twenty-one? Something like that.

What inspired that?

I like going fast. For me, the main thing about surfing is speed. And I used to listen to the Stray Cats a lot. You know that song “Built For Speed”-I just thought, “F-k, I gotta get that tattooed on my neck or something.” It fits me, because everything I do, I like to do really fast. I just can’t handle waiting or doing things slow. I trip out on people when they take like an hour to eat their meal. They’re putting their shoes on and talking … any little thing like that. I just want to say, “Put your shoe on! Finish your food!” I get pissed. It bothers me. Ford is different. He takes his time. I don’t. When I stop, I lay down and go to sleep.

Ford’s more patient?

Yeah. Like today on the way to his school, he was eating this little rice ball. It took him the whole ride to school to finish half of it. I was like, “What are you doing? Eat that thing, dude, we’re here.” I would have eaten that thing in like two seconds.

Have you ever felt close to dying?

Yeah, every day. (Laughs) No. (Short pause) I was on a trip with Art Brewer in the Hinakos, and I almost died. We were surfing this good right, and it was pretty good size. I caught a wave and paddled back out, then a set came, so I whipped around out of breath from paddling, dropped in late, and got the lip on my head. I didn’t penetrate the water, I ended up skipping and then getting washed through to the inside. I was underwater so long, eventually I just gave up. I started blacking out. Finally I came up and grabbed my board. There was no channel and they were shooting from the boat, so they couldn’t see me. If I hadn’t come up and got to my board, I would’ve been gone. I had to float there for a half hour to get enough energy to paddle back to the boat. I’ve got some other experiences, but I don’t really want to talk about them (laughs).You mean partying-related near-death experiences?

Yeah. Probably not smart to talk about that in a magazine interview. I’ve had two near-death experiences from partying.

When you have one of those experiences, does that end that phase of partying?Yeah, for sure. “F-k it” only gets you so far.

You’ve been surfing for 25 years, twenty of them as a pro. What do you contribute your longevity to?

I love surfing. I just love it. If I didn’t have any sponsors or if I had some other job, I’d still be surfing just as much as I surf today. I’m a die-hard surfer. It’s always been there for me, no matter what. Through all the problems I’ve had in my life, I’ve always been able to paddle out and just forget everything. Relationships, money problems, drug problems … anything. Surfing’s always been there for me.

You must feel lucky. A lot of people don’t have that kind of escape from their reality.

I get sent on surf trips with younger pros, you know like sixteen to 24 year olds, and I trip out. If there’s not a photographer in the water, they aren’t surfing. It can be lightly raining and perfect, and they’re just sitting there. How can they just sit there and not go surfing?

I f-kin’ trip out on that. I’ll surf eight hours if the waves are good. They’ll go out for an hour, and if the photographer goes in because the lighting’s bad or whatever, they’ll go in and lay in the f-kin’ hotel room. There are a few people I love surfing with. I’ve had a bunch of fun trips with Andy (Irons)-he’s another guy who will stay in the water all day. He’ll surf three sessions a day. Wardo surfs a lot, too. Some of these younger kids, though, they get paid all this money, and … f-k, it just pisses me off. Nathan and Christian (Fletcher) will surf all day. Herbie (Fletcher) surfs longer than anybody I know … when he can walk (laughs).Has there been a defining moment in your life?

Yeah. I moved to Hawai’i when I was like 23. I had burned out on California, and I needed something new. I started surfing Off The Wall a lot, and I got kind of known out there. That was the beginning of five years of hardcore surfing. It was a really good experience.

You’ve had quite a relationship with Off The Wall. A lot of your career has happened there.

Yeah, I love that spot. It’s by far my favorite. It’s just a beachbreak over a reef on steroids.

Who was surfing it a lot when you first got over there?

I saw (Tom) Curren out theree a lot, and Todd Chesser. When Pipe and Backdoor would be really crowded I’d end up down at Off The Wall. A lot of the waves close out, but you can pick the right ones and get the barrel of your life. It can be heavy out there, too. It’ll get to the point where all the photographers will go in. I would too if I was swimming out there. I grew up surfing beachbreaks, so it just felt natural for me.

How do you want to be remembered?

As someone who loved surfing. A guy who had his problems, but he loved surfing.

t can’t handle waiting or doing things slow. I trip out on people when they take like an hour to eat their meal. They’re putting their shoes on and talking … any little thing like that. I just want to say, “Put your shoe on! Finish your food!” I get pissed. It bothers me. Ford is different. He takes his time. I don’t. When I stop, I lay down and go to sleep.

Ford’s more patient?

Yeah. Like today on the way to his school, he was eating this little rice ball. It took him the whole ride to school to finish half of it. I was like, “What are you doing? Eat that thing, dude, we’re here.” I would have eaten that thing in like two seconds.

Have you ever felt close to dying?

Yeah, every day. (Laughs) No. (Short pause) I was on a trip with Art Brewer in the Hinakos, and I almost died. We were surfing this good right, and it was pretty good size. I caught a wave and paddled back out, then a set came, so I whipped around out of breath from paddling, dropped in late, and got the lip on my head. I didn’t penetrate the water, I ended up skipping and then getting washed through to the inside. I was underwater so long, eventually I just gave up. I started blacking out. Finally I came up and grabbed my board. There was no channel and they were shooting from the boat, so they couldn’t see me. If I hadn’t come up and got to my board, I would’ve been gone. I had to float there for a half hour to get enough energy to paddle back to the boat. I’ve got some other experiences, but I don’t really want to talk about them (laughs).You mean partying-related near-death experiences?

Yeah. Probably not smart to talk about that in a magazine interview. I’ve had two near-death experiences from partying.

When you have one of those experiences, does that end that phase of partying?Yeah, for sure. “F-k it” only gets you so far.

You’ve been surfing for 25 years, twenty of them as a pro. What do you contribute your longevity to?

I love surfing. I just love it. If I didn’t have any sponsors or if I had some other job, I’d still be surfing just as much as I surf today. I’m a die-hard surfer. It’s always been there for me, no matter what. Through all the problems I’ve had in my life, I’ve always been able to paddle out and just forget everything. Relationships, money problems, drug problems … anything. Surfing’s always been there for me.

You must feel lucky. A lot of people don’t have that kind of escape from their reality.

I get sent on surf trips with younger pros, you know like sixteen to 24 year olds, and I trip out. If there’s not a photographer in the water, they aren’t surfing. It can be lightly raining and perfect, and they’re just sitting there. How can they just sit there and not go surfing?

I f-kin’ trip out on that. I’ll surf eight hours if the waves are good. They’ll go out for an hour, and if the photographer goes in because the lighting’s bad or whatever, they’ll go in and lay in the f-kin’ hotel room. There are a few people I love surfing with. I’ve had a bunch of fun trips with Andy (Irons)-he’s another guy who will stay in the water all day. He’ll surf three sessions a day. Wardo surfs a lot, too. Some of these younger kids, though, they get paid all this money, and … f-k, it just pisses me off. Nathan and Christian (Fletcher) will surf all day. Herbie (Fletcher) surfs longer than anybody I know … when he can walk (laughs).Has there been a defining moment in your life?

Yeah. I moved to Hawai’i when I was like 23. I had burned out on California, and I needed something new. I started surfing Off The Wall a lot, and I got kind of known out there. That was the beginning of five years of hardcore surfing. It was a really good experience.

You’ve had quite a relationship with Off The Wall. A lot of your career has happened there.

Yeah, I love that spot. It’s by far my favorite. It’s just a beachbreak over a reef on steroids.

Who was surfing it a lot when you first got over there?

I saw (Tom) Curren out there a lot, and Todd Chesser. When Pipe and Backdoor would be really crowded I’d end up down at Off The Wall. A lot of the waves close out, but you can pick the right ones and get the barrel of your life. It can be heavy out there, too. It’ll get to the point where all the photographers will go in. I would too if I was swimming out there. I grew up surfing beachbreaks, so it just felt natural for me.

How do you want to be remembered?

As someone who loved surfing. A guy who had his problems, but he loved surfing.

ut there a lot, and Todd Chesser. When Pipe and Backdoor would be really crowded I’d end up down at Off The Wall. A lot of the waves close out, but you can pick the right ones and get the barrel of your life. It can be heavy out there, too. It’ll get to the point where all the photographers will go in. I would too if I was swimming out there. I grew up surfing beachbreaks, so it just felt natural for me.

How do you want to be remembered?

As someone who loved surfing. A guy who had his problems, but he loved surfing.