Pro-Lite team rider Matt Becker grew up surfing in Santa Barbara, CA. His dad taught him to surf as soon as he could swim. As a kid, he did Junior Lifeguards, competed in NSSA, played water polo, basically "a typical southern California beach rat kid" he say's. It wasn't until his teenage years where he made the transition into standup paddleboard racing.
Matt initially joined our team as a standup paddle racer in 2011 and spent many years traveling around the world competing in races, one of which was the Molokai to Oahu race, a 32 mile stretch between the islands that often comes with multiple variables.
Becker crossing the channel during Molokai to Oahu race.
With all that time spent in Hawaii, it's no wonder he took an interest in big wave surfing. At 14, he started surfing Sunset Beach. Later on he met Maverick’s surfer Haley Fiske at a contest at Sunset. “Haley was like, ‘you gotta come check out Maverick’s,'” Becker said. “He gave me all the info, and when I got back from Hawaii I walked into Joe Bark’s shaping room and grabbed a monstrous 10’6″ and started surfing Maverick’s when I was 18.”
Becker had made a little money from the SUP racing thing, but after experiencing Mav’s, he moved onto big-wave surfing pretty much full-on. “Basically, I went up north and lived out of my truck and just surfed all the time,” he said. “I was sleeping in Skindog’s driveway for a while in Santa Cruz.”
He eventually took a job on a crab fishing boat out of Half Moon Bay, CA. He found the perfect match. A job he enjoyed, provided enough money and gave him enough flexibility to hopefully not have to miss any surf when the conditions got good.
Flash forward a few years and now he is back in Santa Barbara working on a commercial fishing boat with his dad. He say's he is still a deckhand, but has hopes of one day owning his own operation which would give him even more freedom to shut the doors on the boat when the surf is on.
When it comes down to it, he states fishing etiquette as being similar to that of surfing. "You don't drop in on guys who were there first, and no matter how good it is, when somebody ask's how it was you say, 'yeah, it was alright'. You don't want anybody to get your spot." There is a degree of secrecy in both fishermen and surfers.
Matt's closing comments about being a commercial fishermen are, “It’s good living, you’re out on the water and there’s such pride in it and adventure and it’s fun. There are not too many occupations that I’ve come across where you can have such a freedom. You don’t go to sea for the money, you go because you like to be out on the ocean. The money is just a byproduct of that — it allows you to keep going out on the ocean, whether that’s surfing or whether that’s on a fishing boat. That’s very appealing to most people that are in it. You definitely have to have the right screws loose, I think. [Laughs.]”
Photo: Frank Quirarte