A Discussion With Influential Surfer Matt Archbold

This may be hard to believe, but there was a time that surfers didn’t have tattoos.

Matt Archbold is one of surfing’s all-time style masters, even if his style was ahead of its time. Photo: Courtesy of Ellis/SURFER Magazine

Yes, before anchor tats and tribal Sublime suns, it was rare to see a surfer with any ink before the mid 90s.

But we know that surfing changed a lot at that time. Surfers were taking to the air … It was much more punk rock.

However, the thing was, Matt Archbold had been doing that for years. A kid born to run wild around San Clemente, he was a standout on the National Scholastic Surfing Association (NSSA) U.S. team, but he didn’t really fit in. First off, he wasn’t about to conform to the style of surfing of that time, nor was he scholastic. He favored hot rods and got heavily tattooed before it became socially acceptable. His career in the 80s and 90s was marked by erratic competition results and heavy drug use.

He was the among the first to bust off the wave face; He charged heavy waves in Hawaii. The surf industry was paying him, but no one was looking out for the best interest of a raging kid with a pocket full of cash. His surfing would go on to influence the Momentum Generation that ultimately dictated where surfing was going. (Unfortunately, it went there without him.) The whole thing was hugely marketable, but no one was able to dial it back. He became as much a cautionary tale as a surf star.

Archbold’s story was told to the world via his biopic “Archie, Built for Speed, Born to Ride” that Bill Ballard released in 2008. Fortunately, the film had a relatively happy ending that didn’t end in prison or an overdose.

He eventually cleaned himself off the hard drugs with the help of his wife Audrey. A decade later, he’s something of a family man in his hometown of San Clemente … Where he’s reviving an old project.

Archbold had a surf shop in the early 90s called Archy’s Garage – based on his love of surfing and greaser culture. (That too, was ahead of its time as its become something of a marketable niche in Southern California.)

Archy’s is possibly the coolest garage in all of California. Photo: Courtesy of Archy’s Garage

“That shop did really well, but I moved to Hawaii,” Archbold tells ASN. “Now I’m reviving it. It’s based on that core Archy’s Garage imagery: surf, greaser and punk rock”

The reincarnation is in the form of apparel. And he’s working on some of it in the garage of his San Clemente home.

Yes, that’s Archy’s Garage apparel hand-printed in Matt Archbold’s actual garage – in between his Timmy Patterson surfboards, his 1949 Shoebox Ford hot rod and the chopped frame of a Triumph.

“I’m doing some smaller orders in the garage. I have a single and four-head press that I’m using. It’s pretty punk rock,” he explains. “But the bigger orders are done by my buddy John Pauling. He’s known as Slasher McGavin, at CO-OP Ink up the hill. He came in when I was doing some printing and he was laughing at me because there was ink all over the place. So he said he would help me out.”

He mentions several times that Audrey is running the show. He’s getting help from his nephew, Wiley Archbold and friend Mike Muir who has been advising him and designing from the surf shop days right to today’s project.

The feedback has been pretty solid, considering the size of the operation. Archbold had a huge following in the surf magazines and he’s finding that followers aged 30s to 60s are all wanting shirts.

”And young guys like Kolohe [Andino] and Griffin [Colapinto] have asked me about it, which is really cool,” he adds.

Surf, greaser and punk rock are the core of Archy’s Garage. Photo: Courtesy of ArchysGarage.com

He didn’t really start using Instagram until last year, but has quietly amassed some 13,300 followers, admitting he doesn’t really know what he’s doing.

“I don’t really know social media etiquette. I don’t really need to,” he laughs. “I think if I followed what I was supposed to do, I wouldn’t really be me.”

Now, he has four children. Ford, 27, has done well as a professional surfer himself. Will and Ruby are both 22, and only eight-year-old Poppy still lives in the house. Archy is clean and living healthy.

“I haven’t done any drugs for so long,” he tells ASN. “Actually, a few years ago I had an injury. I was looking into the quickest way to recover and someone suggested to quit drinking too. I healed fast and just liked the way I felt. I haven’t had a drink in three years.”

He’s back to surfing Trestles and T-Street on the regular, where he learned to surf some 40 years ago. And he still occasionally sessions mini ramps at his friends’ houses.

“I’m hoping to jam out to Hawaii this winter too,” Archbold tells ASN.

Check out all of his new threads at Archy’s Garage.

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