Matthew McGillivray. (Photo by Koji Hirano/Getty Images)

After failing to make the cut at the end of the
2021 Championship Tour, South Africa’s Matthew McGillivray has been blessed at
the expense of Yoga Dora’s foot injury by receiving the World Surf League (WSL) replacement spot for the start of the Championship Tour Season.

“I stayed in Hawaii after the last Challenger
Series event until just after Christmas,” McGillivray told the WSL. The
borders to South Africa were shut due to omicron, so I was waiting to see if
they would open.”

“Sure enough, the borders opened up right before
New Year’s, so I came home for two weeks to chill with the family. I head back
to Hawaii on January 14th to start training again.”

Competing as a rookie last season, McGillivray
displayed some of his best surfing at the Margaret River Pro in Western
Australia, where he finished third.

“It was surreal to surf on tour in 2021. I was
travelling with Morgan Cibilic and Jay Thompson was coaching us,” explained
McGillivray. “I learnt a lot about myself and my mindset. There was so
much I was working on in my surfing technically and in the way I surfed heats
and made decisions under pressure.

“I was so sad when I just missed the cut line
for 2022 after Mexico. I had worked so hard to be there on Tour and then that
dream slipped through my fingertips, so I’m excited now to have the opportunity
to surf more CT events again,” continued McGillivray.

“It completely turned this year around when I
found out the news. I feel like I’m coming into this year a bit wiser and hungrier,
and I want to apply as much knowledge as I can from last year. I want to make
the most of this opportunity.”

The 24-year-old should feel positive about his
prospects heading to Hawaii. Last year, he finished ninth at the Banzai Pipeline
event at Oahu’s North Shore in Hawaii, failing to compete with the renowned
winner John John Florence. The South African also put together a dream run at
Sunset Beach, Oahu when he qualified for the Championship Tour in 2019.

“Hawaii is my favourite place to be, apart from
back home,” said the Jeffreys Bay, Eastern Cape resident. “I really enjoy
the power in the ocean and having big canvasses to work with. Sunset is a wave
I really enjoy surfing and it gives me confidence knowing I have done well
there in the past. I hope we get some big swells for the event.”

When asked about the biggest lesson he learnt
during his rookie campaign, McGillivray said that it was all upstairs.

“I learned a lot about the importance of one’s
mindset in competition and how much of competing is mental

“It’s all about making smart decisions under
pressure. If you make a mistake you pay for it. But at the end of the day,
giving my best effort is all that counts, win or lose.”

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By Charlotte Campbell (Surfer's Paradise)

Charlotte Campbell (Surfer's Paradise)