Ocean Lessons From a Big-Wave Surfing Commercial Fisherman

Sarah Knowel

Among 2011 and 2014, Matt Becker was a person of standup paddleboard racing’s most significant names. He experienced a signature line, a trophy case comprehensive of awards and expeditions lined up throughout the world. SUP journal often highlighted him as editors protected his races and excursions. Then, in 2015, after his brother died of a drug overdose, Becker gave it up overnight.

Becker moved into his truck right after dropping his brother, Patrick, and headed up California Freeway 1 to “surf my brains out,” he says. Stops incorporated San Francisco—where he slept in a friend’s house beneath the staircase—and 50 percent Moon Bay in advance of settling in Santa Cruz, which he believes has some of the world’s biggest, wildest waves. He toured the coast since he needed to be in the ocean, on his phrases, wherever the amazing waters and weighty waves healed him.

Matt Becker
Becker, air-dropping his way to a Mavericks ride in drop 2021. Ryan “Chachi” Craig

Elevated in Santa Barbara, Becker’s earliest reminiscences are getting with his relatives on his dad’s fishing boat and browsing with him. Considering that 1976, his father, Mark, has worked 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 states.

He picked up surfing at age 7, and at 15 he commenced SUPing and riding big waves on Maui and Oahu. Summertime fishing excursions provided 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 commenced operating as a deckhand for his dad. “I thought that was a regular childhood,” he states.

Becker crabs channel islands
Large bugs in close proximity to California’s Channel Islands. Mark Becker

Becker’s father instilled a powerful operate ethic in his son, who utilized it to his to start with occupation as a professional deckhand on a 70-foot crabbing boat in 50 % Moon Bay. At 19, aggressive SUP racing took Becker to the Molokai 2 Oahu Paddleboard Environment Championships. The 32-mile open up h2o race crosses the Ka’iwi Channel separating the islands and is thought of the most difficult SUP stamina ocean race in the environment. He finished it four situations.

At age 20, he told SUP magazine, “the entire rationale I did standup and why I do these other disciplines is acquiring that very same stoke like when you are catching your 1st wave.”

This month when we caught up with Becker, 26, he had a diverse perspective on SUP racing. “I received unwell of paddling in a straight line,” he suggests. “I did paddleboarding as a job and obtaining paid out for one thing I loved muddied the waters, and I begun considering, ‘Who’s likely to shell out me at 54, 55 if I proceed that as a occupation?’”

Matt Becker Mavericks
Ryan ‘Chachi’ Craig

That significant-image outlook change is why Becker took his 2015 California coastal journey solo. Through days out on the water, he felt his brother’s existence all around him. Riding large waves reinforced what he certainly valued and helped him recuperate from grief. “If I’m out in massive surf, I constantly consider to myself, ‘This is specifically in which I want to be,’” he states. “That sense of belonging—it’s a primary human instinct to link with mother nature. I also really feel that way on the back of a fishing boat.”

Matt Becker commercial fishing
Becker and Kyle Pemberton off the coast of Issue Reyes, CA. Captain Steve

Today, normally functioning beside his dad, he follows the seasons to make a living so he can surf in his no cost time. He works as a industrial fisherman all through summer months, frequently grinding out 16- to 20-hour days for 20 to 40 days straight. This challenging get the job done contains catching Dungeness crab off the coast of northern California, where by he’s frequently snooze-deprived and running possibility all-around hefty machines. The tasks are so grueling, cold, and wet that his fingernails have fallen off from lifting hefty crab pots. But he suggests the tough do the job is what provides the reward. “After the fishing season, when you’re flying property, the feeling of accomplishment is huge,” he suggests. “You’re tuned into mother nature in a way that a large amount of men and women never get to sense. It’s such a reward.”

Appropriately, his takeaways from large-wave surfing and fishing run parallel: “The most significant issue is the will need for human struggle, no matter whether it’s bodily or psychological.”

In the course of winter, when fishing is in excess of, he steps off the boat and grabs his board. This time of calendar year is when storms barrel down from the northern Pacific and slam into the California coastline, house to Mavericks, outdoors Santa Cruz. When the epic swells occur, Becker is all set. This earlier season brought the ideal conditions he’s observed in his 18 a long time of browsing he chased waves each day. He expended upwards of six several hours in the h2o, for 16 days straight.

“The perception of liberty I come to feel right after enduring these rigorous experiences is enriching,” he claims. “I think to arrive at happiness, you have to put your self by a minimal wrestle each day.”

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