As his transfer to representing Britain is confirmed, we caught up with Freestyle Snowboarder Matty Cox to find out a bit more about where it all began
For Matty Cox, things were never supposed to end up with him staring down a Big Air or Slopestyle run. If his dad’s masterplan had worked out as intended, it would be water and a surfboard beneath the 25-year-old’s feet, rather than snow and a snowboard.
“Dad owned a surf shop,” Matty explains, speaking from Switzerland where he’s training with the majority of the British Freestyle Snowboard team, “and one of the snowboard companies released a 90cm snowboard. My dad’s whole grand idea behind putting me on a snowboard at two was the fact that he could then get me into surfing. “But it bit him on the backside when I fell deeply in love with snowboarding. That’s really how my whole snowboarding career began.”
Eight years on from his World Cup debut – in Halfpipe initially, before transitioning to Big Air and Slopestyle the following year – it’s a career which has already seen Matty take in an Olympic Winter Games in Beijing, two World Championships in Park City and Aspen, and three World Cup top-10 finishes including a fifth place in Cardrona in 2019. All, it should be said, as a representative for his native nation Australia.
Enter, again, Matty’s father.
“Dad was born in Woking, England, and came across to Australia when he was about four years old,” Matty says. “I’d been working with the Australian team, but I always had in the back of my mind that I wanted to represent where my father’s side of the family comes from. And then, I got talking to Hamish and Ben (McKnight and Kinnear of Britain’s Freestyle Snowboard coaching team), and it just made perfect sense to me to be a part of that team.”
“I’d been looking to change something in my snowboarding career. If you want to become the best, you’ve got to be working with the best. What those guys have built in terms of the field of riders in the British team is really impressive. It’s a move that will definitely take my snowboarding to a higher level.”
The Australian-British rivalry is one of sport’s oldest competitive frontlines. So, how did Matty’s family and friends in Australia take the news that he was crossing over to the other side?
“I feel like you know something’s a good idea when the people around you are happy to give you a bit of grief about it,” he laughs. “Any time I go back home, my sister’s fiancé loves to give me hell for it.
It would be easy to think of Matty as someone taking a huge stride into a different environment with the move to the British team. Not quite Crocodile Dundee on snow perhaps, but still a major undertaking for an athlete with so much experience under his belt. Yet talking to Matty, it’s clear that there’s a familiarity and engagement with the British contingent that goes back years.
“I’ve known Hamish since I was about 16 or 17, and I’ve got to know Ben and the other guys over the years too, so it’s not like I’m jumping into the unknown with this,” he says. “Through my career, I’ve had to do a lot on my own – the last Olympic Games, I didn’t have a coach or a physio – so to now be able to train with Billy Cockrell and having, like, a sparring partner out there is amazing for my snowboarding and for my mentality, to ride with other athletes at my level.”
And it’s not just the current squad who’ve proven influential either. “I’ve been chatting to Billy Morgan quite a lot about moving to the British team. Billy has only ever had good words to say about the British team dynamic. Therefore, I kind of knew coming into it that if he had something positive to say about the dynamic, I knew it was going to be a smart decision.”
To the casual observer, it would be easy to think that British Freestyle snowboarding has never had a higher profile than it does right now, in large part down to Mia Brookes’ exploits over the past year. But for Matty, the richness of Britain’s snowboarding influence is something that perhaps gets overlooked.
“It’s so easy to forget about what’s happened before, and the heritage that’s there in British snowboarding. I try to speak to Billy (Morgan) as much as I can, try to see what Katie (Ormerod) is up to because of all her experience, obviously Jenny Jones before that too,” he says.
“Like everyone else, I’m so curious to see what Mia’s got in the bag and how her career is going to evolve, especially with everything she’s achieved already. We’re all kind of standing on the shoulders of giants in this, and there’s just such a perfect platform with the people around the team and the people who’ve been there before. Mia’s filling big shoes here too, those shoes that Katie, Billy, Jenny have all worn in the past.”
And what’s the legacy that Matty himself would like to leave for snowboarding?
He sighs: “that’s a hard question. I guess, as I’m maturing as an athlete and getting a bit older, I’m beginning to do better in slopestyle events, and I love competing in Slope. That’s definitely my favourite thing to do, it needs a lot of attention, a lot of creativity. I am really motivated to be successful and an Olympic medal is obviously a dream,” he catches himself for a moment and you can almost hear the reflections on his personal motivations taking place.
“But I think, really, what I want my legacy to be in snowboarding,” he continues, “is I want to be doing the tricks no one else is doing. I want to be doing the stuff that’s not mundane, that makes someone think ‘oh yeah, that’s what Matty would put in his run’, or ‘that’s the type of snowboarding that Matty did’.”
“That’s the sort of thing that holds much longer than a medal in the long run. When I look back at snowboarding over the past 40 years, to have your name mentioned because you maybe did a spin a different direction or a different way, that to me personally is maybe something I can control more than what a judge might think on a certain day.”
Speaking to Matty, it’s clear that the motivation, the enthusiasm for the team and for everything the Brits are doing in the Freestyle snowboard world is there. The genuine love for snowboarding is there too, though, it should be said, his father’s grand plan didn’t fall entirely flat on his face: Matty has indeed become a surf lover as well.
But while you can take the snowboarder out of Australia, there are some areas it would seem you still can’t take the Australian out of the snowboarder.
“I’m sorry,” he laughs, “but I’m a Vegemite fan through and through; I just can’t bring myself to crack into the Marmite yet!”.
Matty Cox Biography
- Born: 1998
- Discipline: Freestyle Snowboard (Big Air + Slopestyle)
- Squad: World Cup Squad
- Hometown: Stanwell Park, NSW