SurfCoach USA: Sean Mattison
As the founder of SurfCoachUSA.com, Sean Mattison represents the U.S.A. Gold Medal team and is one of the surfing world’s highest-profile authorities. But his career goes far beyond that. Mattison recently told SurfScience about his roots and why even intermediate surfers and “weekend warriors” need regular coaching if they want to keep improving.
Sean Mattison became a professional surfer in 1987 after considering an art scholarship out of high school. Choosing his passion for surfing over art, Sean found himself in the Top Ten of the Bud Pro Surfing Tour. After competing for several years, Sean started coaching in 1998 with good friend and Pipeline Masters Champion, Joey Buran. Joey’s personal surf coach was Australian legend and former World Champion Peter Townend, making the pedigree of this duo hard to match.
Mattison made enough of a name for himself during his years as a professional surfer and then as a coach that in 2002 Kevin Gronden (1996 ISA World Gold Medalist Coach) asked him to be an assistant coach on Team USA at the ISA World Games in South Africa. As a former member of the National Scholastic Surfing Association (NSSA) national team and the Unites States Surf Team, Sean jumped at the opportunity to coach under a Gold Medal Coach.
Sean’s ties to the surfing world and his coaching pedigree were solidified even further when Ian Cairns, the 1970s big wave legend from Australia and founder of the ASP, Association of Surfing Professionals asked Mattison to be his Asst. Coach for the 2009 Pac Sun USA Surf Team. Along Cairns’ side Mattison has coached the likes of Cory Lopez( ISA Mens Silver Medalist) Courtney Conlogue ( ISA Womens Gold Medalist), and Sage Erickson (ISA Womens Bronze Medalist). This coaching combination help to earn The United States first ISA World Gold Medal since 1996.
SurfScience: You've been coaching for some time now. Why do you love it?
Sean Mattison: “Coaching is such a great experience because you feel like you’re putting water back into the well,” Sean told us. “When you’re moving into pro it’s all taking, and when you move on later in life you can feel the joy of giving back. It’s just a fantastic experience.”
SS: How is your coaching different than every other surf coach out there?
SM: “There’s nobody doing what I do. I do competitive boot camps because it gives me the opportunity to expose kids to an environment where they can become a competitive athlete just like anyone in the Olympics.
"Competition pushes individuals to be their best … There’s a point where you really have to invest in your career and not cruise by with a fun sort of an attitude, but really sharpen every element whether it’s body or technique or equipment, all the components that really play into being the sharpest and highest performance of all the athletes.”
SS: What about weekend warriors, or intermediate surfers? Too often we’re told that, if you’re one of these guys, coaching isn’t really an option, or at least not one that’s gonna pay off. That coaching is really just for beginner surfers and professionals. What do you say to that sort of talk?
SM: “Well, if you want to progress, you have to approach surfing in a progressive kind of way.
"The advice for the weekend warrior would be, if you can’t be physically active, you have to make it up in board volume. There’s a balance in what actually does the work. Guys who are really fit and are killer paddlers and who are doing it all the time, they can ride little boards and the boards will allow them to be more of an aggressive surfer. If you’re not, and you want to keep it fun, because at the end of the day that’s what it’s all about, you have to evaluate your equipment and make sure you have the right board in the right conditions that can make up for your lack of activity.
“There are a couple of things that dictate how we surf. Everything we do as a surfer is a form of habit. The way that you paddle, the way that you pop up, the lines that you draw, they all affect the entire ride. And if you have a board that’s not really right for you, you need to alter the way that you surf to adapt to the board. And if you have a bad technique you won’t progress forward because you’re fighting your body and your stance.”
SS: Is that why you need a coach at all times if you’re looking to improve?
SM: “If you’re not being coached, nobody’s pointing those things out,” Sean agreed.
SS: Okay, every surf coach needs credentials. As a competitive surfer since childhood, you’ve certainly got ‘em — and then some. Talk about your coaching roots for us.
SM: “My first experience with the USA team originally was back in 2002 and I was coaching under Kevin Grondin … but I actually got into coaching about 1998 with [USA Surf Team Coach] Joey Buran.
“I’ve been friends with Joey since I was about 12 or 13 and he had actually been my employee at Surfride. We started coaching together and … [later] Joey formed that position for me [in the 2002 world contest]. Surfing America, which is now the governing body was formed after that, and Peter Townend was the first head coach for Surfing America, and PT was formally at one time Joey Buran’s personal head coach.
"So it went from PT to Joey who took his spot and worked that position for two years, and last year Joey has asked me to be his assistant coach. Kind of classic how all these threads lace together as far as my own personal pedigree.
“It’s really good to know these athletes who are fantastic surfers, being able to get sown in within the nucleus of this talent and have them actually respect you and accept you. It’s been a fantastic experience for me to have been involved with so many fantastic coaches, to learn off these guys.”
SS: Any final words of advice?
SM: “You’ve got to control your emotions and mind and know your equipment.”
You can check out Sean’s coaching site and learn more about the man himself at SurfCoachUSA.com.