Banting’s hitting the vibrator again. I know this because I can hear it. Everyone can. As he rolls his thigh up and down the electric tube to knead out any muscle knots, the device pulsates off the hollow floor and echoes through every room of the giant house. The home literally trembles with the sound. You can feel the noise shake your body from another room the way spinning helicopter blades or a gigantic subwoofer buzzes through your chest.

The first time I heard it, I was unfamiliar that an apparatus could cause such a stir. I followed the reverberation downstairs, thinking someone had thrown sneakers into the dryer, but nah, Banting was hitting the vibrator again. Really gettin’ at it. We’re talking deep-tissue shit, unabashedly straddling that cylinder to hit his hip-flexor just so.

But Banting takes his rehab seriously — he does not skimp on the stretches. Guy will get in a power stance before a session and thrust his two arms and shoulders into the sky on both sides like a backup dancer on a Paul Simon Graceland tour. But Banting’s also on the CT, and this is what top-level tour-surfers do. And appearances aside…it shows in his surfing.

Perhaps the most consistent out of everyone, he turns full-rotation ‘oops into combos out at North Point and flicks stylish nose-pick finners sans reverse because — and I quote — “My coach told me they’re cooler without the reverse.”

His coach is f--king right. But I also credit the vibrator.

Bundled up in the van in the carpark post-surf, Matt and Noa sip on stubbies, waiting for the others to come in. Outside, the wind and passing showers whip against the windshield and I watch the two of them interact, which is peculiar because although you’d think they wouldn’t, they totally work. You wouldn’t think so, because at face value, they couldn’t be more different. Noa is loud and wild and unkempt and chose video parts over the QS grind. Banting is clean-cut and put together, more focused and intentional than ironic. He stuck with the comps and damn near won the whole QS to qualify a year ago.

Noa clicks on an old Hole song. Banting patiently waits for the song to end and clicks on the new Kanye. There is no argument whatsoever; they continue to finish their Cooper’s Pale Ales and shoot the shit. Both 21 years old, they actually competed against each other for years, growing up.

“What would ya rather be, a dolphin or a bird?” asks Banting.

“I reckon a bird,” says Noa. “Although I’ve thought about that question a lot. I reckon a horse actually. No wait…a bird. Some bird of prey just coming down on some rat, like, ‘You’re done, mate!’ Or maybe a bear, eating salmon in a river...”

“I’d go bird, for sure,” nods Matt. “Eagles are the sickest.”

“Boobs or butts?”

Critical issues like that, which must be discussed or re-examined.

What I really love about Banting is that every writer who goes on these trips knows there’s a point. A point where the pro surfer stops acting like how he thinks he should be acting in front of someone writing a story about how he acts. The point where he just starts acting like himself. No masks, no forced courtesies, no I’ll-just-smoke-this-when-he’s-not-lookings.

I thought it’d be a few days to get to that point with Banting, but I was wrong. While he is focused and diligent in the water, he is genuinely interested in people while on land. He doesn’t just say shit for laughs or for shock value; he has questions, I notice. About his peers’ tastes and preferences; about me, even. How often did I call my wife on these trips? What’s normal and what’s a normal woman’s response?

And when we got home later that night, the house began to tremble again and I found Matty straddling that black tube because goddammit, he was performing the next morning and when you’re building a video part in a matter of days, consistency is key.

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