Celebrity Car: Matt Keenan - East Valley Tribune: Business

Celebrity Car: Matt Keenan

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Posted: Friday, October 12, 2007 12:00 am | Updated: 5:47 pm, Fri Oct 7, 2011.

Forget Hawaii. Forget Tahiti. If you’re a pro surfer and you really want to test your boarding skills, you ride the big waves off the shores of Nova Scotia, Canada. In March. When the water will have even polar bears shivering. That’s where you’ll find surfing ace, Matt Keenan, from Ocean City, N.J., challenging towering rollers, fighting off the bone-chilling cold, scraping ice off his face and enjoying every second of it.

Forget Hawaii. Forget Tahiti. If you’re a pro surfer and you really want to test your boarding skills, you ride the big waves off the shores of Nova Scotia, Canada. In March. When the water will have even polar bears shivering.

That’s where you’ll find surfing ace, Matt Keenan, from Ocean City, N.J., challenging towering rollers, fighting off the bone-chilling cold, scraping ice off his face and enjoying every second of it.

“It’s the ultimate in extreme surfing. They call it the Red Bull Ice Break. And it’s definitely the craziest thing I’ve ever done. It’s just 25 guys against the elements.”

Keenan, now 32, began surfing at age 11, right off the beach outside the 7th Street Surf Shop on Ocean City’s boardwalk. When other kids were hitting balls in Little League, he was fighting 10-foot swells.

He went on to become New Jersey regional champion, then East Coast champ, then U.S. champ. He turned pro in his early 20s and now travels the globe on the pro circuit, getting paid to do what he loves.

What’s the appeal of surfing? “Of course, I’m an adrenaline junkie. You have to be. But more than that, it just challenges your psyche . . . there’s just no greater rush on earth.”

And when waves like Hawaii’s famous Pipeline, or Tahiti’s Teahupoo, can top 35 feet, cheating death is just part of life.

That’s why when Keenan comes home to Ocean City he needs to take his mind off banzai waves, el rollos and wipe outs. So he turns to his second passion in life: his rides.

And parked neatly on the Ocean City boardwalk this day for Celebrity Car Magazine, outside the 7th Street Surf Shop, are his current faves, a tricked-out Dodge Magnum and a Mercedes-Benz E320.

“I didn’t really get into cars until I was 20. Too busy surfing, I suppose. My first car was a beat-up Subaru wagon with 150,000 miles on the clock. I only had it a month and drove it up to Atlantic City for a surf contest. Someone smashed the rear window and stole all my clothes. I didn’t bother replacing the glass, just drove it with plastic across the tailgate.

“But then I bought an Acura Integra, put some wheels on it, and souped it up a little. Suddenly I was saying, ‘hey, this is fun.’ Then after a couple of Hondas and another Integra, I discovered Mercedes-Benz.”

Keenan began with a C230 Coupe and then moved up to a larger V6-powered E320 sedan. And instead of spending his bucks on the bigger-engined (V8) E500, he decided to put in custom goodies.

He hooked up with Los Angeles, Calif.-based Mercedes and Porsche tuner Claus Ettensberger Corp. — which became one of Keenan’s sponsors — and came away with a full body kit by Lorinser as well as 20-inch rims. Inside, Keenan kept it simple, upgrading the stereo with new speakers, subwoofer and amplifier.

“Like I said, I’m an adrenaline junkie . . . I can get my thrills in the barrel of a wave. I live in a small town with lots of stop signs, so I don’t need an E55 with 460-horsepower. This E320 is just a sweet, classy ride.”

But then in the next breath, Keenan boasts about the Hemi V8 power that propels his latest ride, a steely gray Dodge Magnum.

“I just love this car. This is the easiest way not to have to spend (a lot of money) and still look cool. Some day I’ll get a hotrod, but until then the Magnum gives me the chopped-roof look that I like.”

As soon as Keenan took delivery of the stock Magnum with the 5.7-liter Hemi, it underwent an extreme makeover. On went a set of 22-inch chrome wheels. Then a suspension kit that dropped the body by an inch.

“I found the billet grille myself on the Internet... It just slots right over the original but gives the front end a terrific look.”

To pump up the volume of his favorite hip-hop tunes, Keenan went all out on the stereo with a seven-inch dash-mounted flip-out screen for playing DVDs. There are also seven-inch screens mounted in the back of the headrests.

New speakers went into the doors while two 12-inch woofers went into the trunk, mounted beneath black Plexiglas and lit by red and blue neon.

“It’s the perfect surfer’s car. I can throw my boards in the back and head to the beach, and not worry about it. I felt the car didn’t need some extreme body kit because it looks extreme without it.”

What else is on the Matt Keenan automotive wish list? He says he would love a Cadillac Escalade EXT four-door pickup-simply because it’s a great blank canvas to do conversion work.

But then he quickly takes it back: “The dream car has got to be a Bentley. Without a doubt the Continental GT. If surfing ever reaches the status of basketball or baseball, that’s what I’d have. But right now we surfers are just little beach guys.”

Celebrity Car is produced by Wheelbase Communications in conjunction with quarterly publication Celebrity Car Magazine and the duPont Registry.

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