The Ideal Gold Coast Board Meeting

WORDS: John McJannett PHOTOGRAPHY John McJannett

It’s a tough life when one of the top priorities of your job is the need to spend as much time as possible in the surf!

Such is the fate that awaits Matt Aldridge every day.  As National Sales Manager for Pyzel Surfboards for Australia and New Zealand, it is vitally important that he is aware of the performance credentials of all the company’s surfboards.  So, each morning he and other members of his team attempt to find the time for an “early morning board meeting.”

That means they paddle out on their surfboards at Duranbah, Snapper Rocks, Greenmount or any of the Gold Coast’s many beach breaks.  Matt needs to “test drive” the company’s boards so that he is in the best possible position to pass on his knowledge to customers.

Matt works from a home base at Surfboard Empire in Tweed Heads and it is no secret that the sales of surfboards and associated “surf accessories” is a highly competitive, multi-million-dollar global business.

As Matt explains in his no-nonsense manner “It was ironic that the recent Covid pandemic resulted in a sales boom for the surfing industry.  Apart from periods of total lockdown, surfing, because it is basically a sport of the individual where social distancing didn’t really apply, was one of the sports that people could still actively engage in.

Throughout this period surfing was introduced to a whole new range of people and we are continuing to experience incredibly strong sales growth on a global scale.”

Matt himself hails from a strong pedigree of watermen.  He is a fifth-generation Aldridge raised on the mid-north coast of NSW, and from a very early age, he and his dad were either surfing, fishing or diving in the pristine waters surrounding Camden Haven south of Port Macquarie.

“I can still vividly recall being out fishing with Dad one weekend when I was in Grade 2 and I actually hooked quite a large shark.  I had to take control of the boat while Dad reeled it in and we then released it.

“At ‘Show and Tell’ on Monday I told the tale and drew a picture.  Then followed a phone call from the school to my parents saying that young Matthew’s imagination has run a bit wild.  But Mum and Dad confirmed the truth of it. Like all fishing tales, the size of the shark may have altered slightly over the years but that was typical of the life I lived from a very early age.  Dad passed on to me his skills and knowledge as a waterman.

My family are all very athletic.  My sister is a professional soccer coach in Florida and my uncle Paul was also an exceptional surfer.  He and Dad had an enormous influence on my journey in the surf. Dad gave me my first board – a twin fin – when I was six and I was totally bitten from then on.”

So Matt grew up as an ocean-loving, adventurous kid always willing to leap into new experiences in the ocean.

That boy remains within.

“I completed my Senior and being so distracted by surfing I knew I wasn’t going to go on to university.  I started my apprenticeship as a motor mechanic with Toyota in Port Macquarie and ended up working for Toyota for over 14 years. I qualified and worked as a mechanic for a while and then moved on to the service desk with Toyota.

“That was a fantastic experience for me at that young age.  I was working with a service adviser who was an ex-nurse and I learnt so much from her about really listening to customer needs and acting to satisfy those needs.  That was definitely the start of my business education —  so much of that knowledge has transferred with me and helped me to succeed in the business side of the surfing industry.”

Matt then moved to the Gold Coast in 2005 and worked for a further 6 years at Hinterland Toyota Burleigh and Surf Toyota Tweed Heads.

He then got the chance to venture into the surfing industry and his first role in this sector was at The Boardlife shop in Palm Beach selling boards and surf gear.

When that surf shop closed, Matt’s next move was to link up with Pyzel Surfboards selling their boards and working in their factory.  He eventually moved into the role of Factory Manager/National Sales Manager with the company and now has been with them for over 10 years, qualifying to be the longest-serving employee with the company globally.

Pyzel Surfboards is the brainchild of Jon Pyzel, an award-winning surfer and shaper based on the north shore of Oahu in Hawaii.  Operating globally, the company produces a huge range of specialist surfboards ranging from big wave guns to high-performance machines as well as a wide variety of surf accessories.

Two of the company’s best-known sponsored surfers are two-time Men’s World Champion John John Florence and Australia’s twice Women’s World Champion Tyler Wright from nearby Lennox Heads.

“We also sponsor heaps of up-and-coming young Australian surfers, many of whom are based here on the Gold Coast”.

Matt’s current role is officially National Sales Manager for all surfboard brands through 3rd Rail Distribution. The company is an Australian manufacturer, wholesaler, distributor and retailer of some of the world’s leading brands including Pyzel, Lost, LSD, Cabianca, Mark Richards Surfboards, Billy Tollhurst Surfboards and the Rusty label.

The company is staffed mostly by lifelong surfers like Matt who looks after all the production of the boards in Australia as well as being National Team Manager for all the Pyzel-sponsored team riders in Australia.

“I need to make sure that all our customers and sponsored riders have the best boards to suit their style and the conditions in which they will be riding.  This is especially important for contest surfers who compete in a variety of fluctuating conditions.”

“We currently have five retail centres through an outlet called Surfboard Empire, located on the Gold Coast, Sunshine Coast and in Byron Bay, and we are currently in the process of looking at opportunities in other regions in Australia”

Matt had been coming to the coast for holidays since he was eleven and finally moved up here in 2005 where he linked with the family of legendary Gold Coast surfer and shaper, the late Wayne Deane.

Wayne exerted an enormous influence on the young Matt, fine-tuning his boards and passing on his encyclopedia of surfing knowledge to his young protege

“The whole Deane family looked after me as one of their own and I am eternally grateful to them for my growth and development as a surfer and as a person”.

“In 2011 I accidentally ended up in a longboard contest in Crescent Heads. Then I did pretty well in State and National Titles and spent the year of 2011 – 2012 on the World Longboard Tour. I surfed in Italy, New Zealand, the Philippines, Indonesia, Hawaii and Australia. That was a great experience but after a year I decided it wasn’t for me long term, though I still try to compete in the annual Crescent Head Classic.”

Matt then switched his focus to riding big waves.

“Working for Pyzel and having access to specialty big wave boards through the Pyzel expertise, I started chasing some big waves throughout the world. In Uluwatu in 2018 I surfed some of the biggest waves to hit the place in 30 years.  They were seriously big mountains of waves. I’ve also surfed some amazing big waves on the outer reefs of Hawaii.  I am so lucky to be able to have had that experience.”

Approaching the ripe old age of 40, Matt is still a very gifted surfer.  He is amazingly quick to get into position on a wave and he always seems to slot himself in the most critical sections on waves – forehand or backhand.

Nowadays the want and passion for surfing still remains.

“I still really enjoy starting the day in the surf and it is such a great way to get the day going by getting some fun waves.  Whether it is one foot or twenty feet “I froth out on everything from riding a barrel at Duranbah to sharing a one-foot roller on a longboard with my wife Zara.  Just being in the water is so important to me.

“I am very lucky to have met my wife Zara as she is an amazing person.  She took up surfing only two years ago and has a beautiful style on the board — I get so much pleasure from watching her surfing and having such a good time in the waves.  I’ve had a lifetime of these pleasures and it is incredibly heart-warming to see her enjoying herself so much.

“She has broadened my horizons immensely, introducing me to a whole heap of stuff outside the world of surfing.  She has totally opened my eyes to a lot of really cool experiences. We have two daughters – Navi 12 and Kye who is 8 and at this stage, surfing is just a summer pastime to them. Zara and I are happy to let them be, knowing that if they want to be more involved in surfing they will have access to some of the best boards in the world!”

Matt credits much of his business success in the world of surfing to the work ethic installed in him from his years with Toyota.

“My experience with Toyota taught me a lot about the importance of relationships and having good operational systems and procedures.  I’m still learning today but my time with Toyota has given me a great foundation for business success. Zara reckons I work eight or ten days every week.

“We have a pretty amazing team here on the Gold Coast and we all work together really well.  I am lucky enough to have developed great relationships with surf store Managers around the country and we work together in the best interests of those who pay our wages —  our customers.”

Matt Aldridge has under his belt an amazing range of experience in the surfing industry.

He is highly respected for his achievements both in and out of the water.

For all this, he remains “the sometimes crazy ocean lover” who is thoughtful, “feet on the ground humble”, energetically positive and considerate of the needs of others.

“I get great pleasure knowing that I have helped people achieve things that they have never had the opportunity to do previously.  Whether it is for a World Champion surfer or someone buying their first board I will always make myself available to people.

“We live in the best country in the world and the Gold Coast is the best part of that country.

I don’t know how long I will be here but I’m going to make the most of it for my family and for the surfing community here on the Gold Coast.

“Incidentally I’d like to surf until I cark it.”

Author’s Bio: After a career of over 30 years in senior management in the Australian Hospitality Industry John McJannett has returned to where it all started on the Gold Coast. In semi-retirement, he now has the time to pursue his interest in photography and writing.  View his website at or Instagram @johnomcj