Current World Champion Surfer, former World Champion Cyclist, father of three, Executive of one of Australia’s leading Telecommunications companies and all with only 5% of his vision. Matt Formston is undoubtedly one of Australia’s most formidable athletes with one hell of a story.
Matt was diagnosed with Macular Dystrophy at 5 years of age. He was one of the first people in the world under the age of 40 to be diagnosed with the disease. Although Matt had lost his vision, he remained in a mainstream school and grew up like all the other children playing Rugby League for the Narrabeen Sharks from 5-11 years, transferring to Rugby Union and playing until his late teens, including the first fifteen team for his high school and reps for Warringah Rats.
He felt most at home playing sport and less different to others. In Matts teens, his love for surfing began. He learnt to sail, played ice hockey, and was personally awarded the Sid Hamilton Shield state award by the Mayer of Sydney. However, despite his success in sport, Matt faced constant bullying at school and challenges with the school system not being set up or equipped to support a child with a disability.
For a charity quest in 2009, despite not owning a bike, Matt rode a single bicycle on his own, 1,200 kilometres from Sydney to Melbourne. To this day, it is still the world record travelled by a blind person on a bike and what started Matt on his cycling journey. Today he is still one of the world most accomplished professional blind cyclists. On this ride, he was noticed by the Cycling Australia talent scouts and by 2011, he was riding for Australia. Matt went on to win cycling events worldwide from 2012-2016 and retiring at the Rio Paralympics.
He also achieved an astounding 14 Australian Titles across four disciplines and was the driving force behind tandem bikes build from Carbon Fibre. Matt won gold in the 2013 Tandem Road World Cup and then won gold again in the 2014 Track World Championships, setting the Tandem 4km Pursuit world record time of 4 minutes and 11.213 seconds. This was the fastest time in history for a tandem bike ride and the third fasted time that anyone on any pushbike had completed the 4km pursuit.
As a blind surfer, Matt is pushing the limits off what is physically possible. In 2022, Matt surfed a 50ft wave in Nazare, Portugal. Soon after in 2023, Matt was the first para surfer to be awarded the Australian Heavy Water award.
Today Matt gives back to the community by running clinics for blind and visually impaired children since 2018 teaching them how to use sound, touch, and other senses to enjoy the freedom of the ocean.
Matt is a Vision Australia, Invictus Australia and SurfAid ambassador, he is also a business executive and a leader in sustainability and diversity, equity and inclusion spaces at Optus. With authentic delivery and the ability to speak to many themes, Matt has been a professional speaker, commentator and facilitator for 10+ years.