Between 2011 and 2014, Matt Becker was considered one of standup paddleboard racing’s largest names. He had a signature line, a trophy case filled with awards and expeditions lined up worldwide. SUP journal usually featured him as editors lined his races and journeys. Then, in 2015, after his brother died of a drug overdose, Becker gave it up in a single day.
Becker moved into his truck after dropping his brother, Patrick, and headed up California Freeway 1 to “surf my brains out,” he says. Stops included San Francisco—the place he slept in a pal’s home beneath the staircase—and Half Moon Bay earlier than settling in Santa Cruz, which he believes has among the world’s largest, wildest waves. He toured the coast as a result of he wanted to be within the ocean, on his phrases, the place the cool waters and heavy waves healed him.
Raised in Santa Barbara, Becker’s earliest recollections are being together with his household on his dad’s fishing boat and browsing with him. Since 1976, his dad, Mark, has labored as a industrial fisherman in each California and Alaska. “If my dad couldn’t get a sitter for my brother and me, we went fishing,” he says.
He picked up browsing at age 7, and at 15 he started SUPing and driving huge waves on Maui and Oahu. Summer time fishing journeys included visits to Bristol Bay, Alaska, to catch sockeye salmon and out to California’s Channel Islands for spiny lobster. By day the household fished and by evening they camped out on the islands. At 15, he started working as a deckhand for his dad. “I assumed that was a traditional childhood,” he says.
Becker’s father instilled a powerful work ethic in his son, who utilized it to his first job as knowledgeable deckhand on a 70-foot crabbing boat in Half Moon Bay. At 19, aggressive SUP racing took Becker to the Molokai 2 Oahu Paddleboard World Championships. The 32-mile open water race crosses the Ka’iwi Channel separating the islands and is taken into account essentially the most difficult SUP endurance ocean race on the earth. He accomplished it 4 occasions.
At age 20, he informed SUP journal, “the entire purpose I did standup and why I do these different disciplines is getting that very same stoke like while you’re catching your first wave.”
This month once we caught up with Becker, 26, he had a distinct view on SUP racing. “I acquired sick of paddling in a straight line,” he says. “I did paddleboarding as a job and getting paid for one thing I cherished muddied the waters, and I began pondering, ‘Who’s going to pay me at 54, 55 if I proceed that as a profession?’”
That big-picture outlook shift is why Becker took his 2015 California coastal journey solo. Throughout days out on the water, he felt his brother’s presence round him. Using big waves strengthened what he really valued and helped him get well from grief. “If I’m out in huge surf, I frequently assume to myself, ‘That is precisely the place I wish to be,’” he says. “That sense of belonging—it’s a primary human intuition to attach with nature. I additionally really feel that approach on the again of a fishing boat.”
At this time, usually working beside his dad, he follows the seasons to make a residing so he can surf in his free time. He works as a industrial fisherman throughout summer season, usually grinding out 16- to 20-hour days for 20 to 40 days straight. This tough work contains catching Dungeness crab off the coast of northern California, the place he’s usually sleep-deprived and managing threat round heavy tools. The duties are so grueling, chilly, and moist that his fingernails have fallen off from lifting heavy crab pots. However he says the onerous work is what brings the reward. “After the fishing season, while you’re flying dwelling, the sense of accomplishment is immense,” he says. “You’re tuned into nature in a approach that lots of people by no means get to really feel. It’s such a present.”
Accordingly, his takeaways from big-wave browsing and fishing run parallel: “Crucial factor is the necessity for human battle, whether or not it’s bodily or emotional.”
Throughout winter, when fishing is over, he steps off the boat and grabs his board. This time of yr is when storms barrel down from the northern Pacific and slam into the California coast, dwelling to Mavericks, exterior Santa Cruz. When the epic swells come, Becker is prepared. This previous season introduced the perfect situations he’s seen in his 18 years of browsing; he chased waves daily. He spent upwards of six hours within the water, for 16 days straight.
“The sense of freedom I really feel after enduring these intense experiences is enriching,” he says. “I believe to succeed in happiness, you need to put your self by means of a little bit battle every day.”
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