Matt Archbold

As free-spirited as it is, the surf world wasn’t quite ready for serious ink and muscle cars 20 years ago. Hell, it wasn’t ready for Matt Archbold, period.

His progressive surfing in the early ’90s influenced the way waves are ridden today, but he didn’t take the traditional path to surfing stardom. A product of San Clemente, CA, Archy (as he’s known) dropped out of high school in the ninth grade and followed his own program—one that didn’t involve autograph signings, rigid schedules, or conforming to the dated contest judging criteria of the time. He got burly ink from buddies, busted airs, restored classic rides, and abused his body to a point where his liver never wanted to talk to him again. One month, he’d be arcing across the natural canvas of the blue Pacific; the next, his life would spiral into the undesirable elements of a Mike Ness song.

Archy first got inked when he was 17, and by his early 20s he was an avid collector. “The surf world was pretty tripped out,” he says of his ink. “They thought it had to do with a bike gang or stupid shit like that. But I was friends with John Lloyd at Laguna Tattoo. We used to surf and skate together, and then he’d tattoo me.”

Wrenching also seemed a natural progression. To date, his favorite project has been a ’49 Ford Shoebox that he’s shipped to Hawaii and back so he could work on it over the course of about 12 years. “My dad was the one who really got me into classics. I’ve been into old cars and motorcycles since I was about 15. I still love them both,” says Archy.

It might be argued that Archy’s trouble with drugs and alcohol caused him to miss out on action sports superstardom, but some folks just make better anti-heroes. And by the time his biopic, Archy: Built for Speed, came out in 2008, he’d already been clean for a year. The film’s title was taken from the piece on the back of his neck. His most recent tattoo is the name of his wife, Audrey, who has been his savior. Their daughter, Poppy, will likely be part of his next piece.

These days his sponsor, RVCA, is working on an Archy-inspired line of clothing, and he and Audrey are in the early stages of opening Archy’s Garage, a gearhead-surf shop in Laguna. And at 43, he still garners as much respect as anyone on the North Shore.

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