Matt Hunter
Matt Hunter

Matt Hunter is a lucky guy. Who can describe their job as being paid to travel the world with friends and ride unreal trails on the latest and greatest bikes? Is it luck that he’s found himself in this enviable position, or has Hunter made the stars align with his work ethic and deep passion for riding? Tough call, it’s probably a little of both.

DIRT ISSUE 125 | JULY 2012

Words by Chris Winter. Photos by Mattias Fredriksson, John Gibson and Sterling Lawrence

The 28 year–old professional rider is known for his big mountain prowess, as seen in films and photographs hitting big airs in his backyard of Kamloops, British Columbia, with seeming ease or charging high–alpine singletrack like a mountain goat on speed in the Swiss Alps…or exploring sacred Icelandic trails amongst geysers and glaciers. There’s no doubt that Hunter has amazing talent on a bike, he is versatile and adaptable in any situation and he’s able to step it up to ballsy moves when they reveal themselves. Yet he’s got confidence to diversify his image and show that he can pedal uphill; he’s branching out from his big air roots and spending more time on an all–mountain bike, “my change into all–mountain riding is thanks to these amazing new bikes. It’s great. I’m leaving the truck at home and increasing my pedal time. When you arrive at the top of a climb, you’re already warmed up and the ride down is basically on a DH bike that’s lighter and just as much fun. For me it’s quality versus quantity, which I apply to all aspects of my life." When asked what it’s like to ride with Hunter, mountain bike legend Wade Simmons is quick to answer, “he is an all–round rider with a keen eye for going big. He’s confident, he has the skills and he rides for the adventure and to find new lines. He’s a great mountain biker." It’s evident that Simmons holds Hunter with high regard, “Oh yeah, without a doubt, he’s a rad dude and one of my favourite people to hang and ride with."

That’s the thing about Hunter, there’s no question that he’s an amazing rider, and when you meet him you’ll really appreciate his personality; he’s humble and thoughtful and takes the time to talk to people, not necessarily natural traits of a world–renowned athlete. “I feel like I’m really lucky to be in this position, I’m fortunate to have these opportunities. Everything is available to you if you really want it, especially if you live in the privileged world that we do." Luck? It sounds like Hunter is living his life just the way he wants to and life is delivering in return. “I’m constantly reminded to live each day to the fullest," he says with a smile and a warm fire in his eyes. “I’m going riding now."

Dirt: What was it like growing up in Kamloops, BC?

Hunter: Growing up in there is tough, I don't know anyone who really finishes growing up and becomes a proper adult. Seriously though there is a lot of freedom and space here and lots of things to do, so it's quite amazing.

The landscape looks semi–arid and the riding looks amazing.

Riding around Kamloops is really diverse, there are far more types of trails than we show in the films and photos. I think the only constant is that they are all really fast trails. Not much slow tight stuff here.

All those big airs and high–speed lines over the years, you must have an injury or two from mishaps?

I have some old injuries that hurt in the morning, but none of them bother me at all when I am riding.

I hear that you travel lots in the off–season, what do you get up to?

I surf and backcountry ski. I have a deep love for dirt, waves and powder and I'm fortunate that I can play in all of them.>>

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[part title="MATT HUNTER INTERVIEW | ONE SHOT PROFILE PAGE TWO..."]

Matt Hunter 1
Matt Hunter 1

 

What’s the best advice that you’ve ever been given?

You only get one shot; better make it a good one.

You’ve travelled the world with your mountain bike, where’s your favourite place to ride?

I love the riding in Peru, Colorado, Utah, Switzerland and Iceland. But the first place award, and my heart, belong to British Columbia.

Where have you not been yet and long to check out and ride?

I haven't ridden in South Africa, but after seeing the video of that dude getting smoked by the Hartebeest I would sure like to go there! Also New Zealand has been calling my name for a while but I'm planning a trip there very soon.

Who’s your favourite person to ride with?

My friend Rob. We don't get to ride together much anymore since he moved away. When we ride it's always just like old times.

What’s the most important riding skill to have?

The best riding skill to have is what I call emergency procedures; what to do when things go wrong…because they eventually will. Knowing how your bike will react in different situations. The only way to practice this is with riding experience. The new bikes are easy to go fast but it’s what you do when things go wrong that counts.

What’s it like to hit a really big air for the first time?

When I hit a big jump for the first time I get into this crazy zone, I get super intense. You are not able to test these big lines, you have to just do it. In my mind I ask myself what could happen here to cause me to fail, what are the consequences. But then you have to forget this once you’ve decided to do it. It’s a matter of feeling confident and then going for it.

It sounds like the mental game is huge in big mountain riding.

Focus is so important in all types riding. When your ability level meets a challenge it comes down to talking yourself into something versus talking yourself out of it. To know what you are looking at and say ‘I can do that’ or no, ‘I can’t’.

What’s your background with bikes?

I have always ridden mountain bikes.

Do you have a favourite movie segment?

Simmons’ segment in Shift with the song Rocket Man by band Me First and the Gimme Gimmes is my favourite film segment of all time. It’s actually a tie with Shandro and Watson riding Utah in Ride to the Hills. These segments changed my life. Seriously.

What rider do you respect most?

Graham Agassiz is loose and has so much natural jumping ability, while Thomas Vanderham has great style that’s really calculated. Overall the most amazing rider that I’ve followed is Brendan Fairclough…it’s like he’s playing a video game, it’s so nuts.

How would you describe your riding style?

Unpolished, kinda sketchy, semi–calculated, super fun.

What advice would you give someone who wants to become a sponsored rider?

Ride for the enjoyment of riding and be genuine. Make sure that you are doing what you want to do. Good things come to those who are being natural. Magic happens.

What are you working on riding–wise?

I've been shaving milliseconds off my time every lap at the local track. Ummm kidding.>>

[part title="MATT HUNTER INTERVIEW | ONE SHOT PROFILE PAGE THREE..."]

Matt Hunter in Zermatt, Swizerland. Photographed in August 2011.
Matt Hunter in Zermatt, Swizerland. Photographed in August 2011.

Do you have a ride or moment that stands out as particularly memorable?

Sometimes I freak out about how rad things are. On a ride in Iceland with Shandro, Schwartzy, Sterling and Mitchell we were riding super fun trails over this landscape that felt like another planet – the ground was steaming. It was like ‘what’s happening here?’ Or riding with a dozen friends in BC’s Chilcotins can be the best ride ever. It’s about being with the right people in cool places.

What are your goals this year?

My riding goal this year is to ride better, longer, faster trails more.

The Lone Wolf video that you did with Specialized marked a bit of a turning point. It had a different feel, a different type of riding. Can you tell us a bit about it?

That vid came together at the last minute, as they do. I had been wanting to shoot in that area for quite a while and then I had some time and just went for it. I didn't expect the reaction it received, I just wanted to go ride somewhere cool that people would want to see. Most bike videos only include one aspect of the ride, the shredding part. It was crazy to hear how much people enjoy seeing all the other parts.

The way it was filmed it gave you the feeling that you were on your own, but we've heard rumours that you were not alone! So what was it, massive production crew or just you and the bears?

Man, you got me. I had the bears shoot some backup angles. Paid them in shot bloks.

As a sponsored rider, how have you seen the media landscape change over the years? The internet and mini web film/edits are vitally important now to riders, maybe more than getting a shot in a magazine or a part in a big film. It is so much more immediate.

We have definitely reached the age of instant gratification! As a kid I remember waiting for the new films to come out, just itching to see what was in there and then watching it over and over, memorizing every shot. As a pro rider I resisted the web video shoots as long as I could, but I can't now. It's what sponsors want, and what people want to see. I didn't like how people would say "it's just for the web" as if that were some reason to produce some shitty content. But the flooding of video content has also done something great. Creativity has gone through the roof! There are still loads of crappy videos, but the good ones are so much better. I'm still bothered by the way videos seem to have a two–day shelf life, but I hope that will change.

Where do you see your riding heading? You are only 28 years old. Will it be more big mountain epic stuff, more freeride?

I ride my DH bike just as much as my AM bike, and I don't want to stop filming the big moves and putting together freeride segments. But I love making movies, and there are so many sick stories to be told and cool places to ride that an AM bike can take you. It feels new, like the sky's the limit, because the bikes are so adaptable it has expanded the territory. I look forward to doing more epic stuff for sure.

How do you see mountain biking changing, and how has it changed over the years?

It feels like it's changing fast these days, or maybe I'm just paying more attention. Of the two elements that make up our rides, both are shockingly better than five years ago. Bike builders are making bikes way more fun to ride and trail builders are blowing my mind these days, some new trails around here are absolutely wild. It feels like a perfect storm. The lines between disciplines are getting very blurry. I'm just hoping more wheel size options come out soon!