Matt Becker is a commercial fisher by trade and a big wave surfer by choice. This California native has found the true balance and meaning in working hard and playing harder. Matt gets up early, before the sun, to get prepped either for throwing on layers of neoprene to stand on a foggy shore or for a day on the boat with his Dad.
When he’s not fishing to earn a living, you can find Matt en route to his favorite surf spots along the coast. And when the ocean comes alive, Matt prefers to charge Mavericks, one of the premier big waves spot in both California and the world. It ain’t all palm trees and ukulele, however. There are rocks, fog banks, large creatures under the water, and even bigger waves on top of it. But it’s worth it when you make it to the shore alive and are greeted with a cold beer.
With waves building along the coast and the surf season in full swing, we decided to call up Matt to see how his season’s going. We talked about charging Mavericks, off-season training, surfing off intuition, and more. Grab a cold one out of the fridge, crack it open, and read on.
805: Hey Matt, how’s the season been so far?
Matt Becker: The surf season so far has been pretty lackluster. There was a small day that Mavericks broke the day after Thanksgiving, and I ended up going surfing closer to home. Those small days can have very looong lulls between sets and it drives me nuts. I am an impatient surfer.
Have you been swell chasing or just staying at home and waiting for storms to arrive?
I have been staying at home waiting for waves to show up. I have been focusing on work and getting in the water when time allows.
Do you spend much time in the offseason checking out the reefs and setups of spots you paddle out to in the water? Out on the boat, diving, or whatnot.
Offseason training… it kind of depends on the time of year. I don’t train specifically for big surf, mostly just to have a healthy life and to stay fit. I want to make the most out of whatever activity I happen to be doing, whether that’s backcountry snowboarding, surfing, or hiking in the mountains.
In the winter if it looks like the storm track really ramps and we are having back-to-back big swells, I’ll do some breath work. For the most part, I’m alternating between yoga, calisthenics and weight training, and having good cardio makes me feel prepared for the surf season. That said when the surf is up and I have the time I really enjoy doing long four and five-hour sessions. Going through the motions, working on my surfing technique, and feeling solid on my board to be prepared for bigger surf.
To be honest, in the surf offseason I don’t spend any time looking at the bottom structure for the waves I like to surf. At Mavericks, for example, this year will be my tenth season out there. When I surf I go mostly off of intuition and I base my decisions on years of prior experience.
Give us a rundown on your board quiver for the winter… What’re you riding mostly, and what are you hoping to ride more?
This year I’m surfing some older guns I ordered a few years ago from Bob Pearson in Santa Cruz for my big wave boards. Last year I rode Mavericks one day. It was a pretty lackluster winter so if the surf isn’t really gonna pump I don’t order new big boards. I picked up a batch of shortboards I really like, so right now I feel like my quiver is pretty put together.
Other than Mavericks, what other big-wave spots are you getting out to this winter?
Well to be honest I really haven’t surfed mavericks all that much since the 2020-2021 season. The crowd uptick hasn’t seemed too dramatic out there more than it normally is. In the 2021 winter, we had some big days, and luckily by that time the crowd had been worn down from a continuous run of big surf so it was mellow. Last year like I said I surfed it one day, and I missed a few days because of work, but it looked pretty busy with people. Mavericks became way more crowded with the advent of the inflation vest in 2015. It certainly has felt more packed since then but when it’s proper and consistent 25 feet with 30-foot-plus sets, there are plenty of waves to ride. In my experience, most people get pretty spooked when it’s really big and there’s only a handful of takers in the spot going for waves. If it’s a slow winter and a smaller to midsize swell it will get pretty busy on those days, generally, when it is like that I like to surf other spots. That said some spots have become more crowded in the last few years, but if you know where to look there are plenty of empty waves up and down the coast. The right place, right time tactic is key.
At what point does it get too big to paddle for you? Are there any days where it may be a bit smaller than normal, but low-tide or something else that makes it heavier so you opt for the ski? And, if it is, what’s the best way to go about or “solve” it?
For me when you’re getting consistent 50-foot sets I’d rather not paddle. At that point, it’s no longer fun, just terrifying. I would rather tow. Unless maybe it looks clean and is the right day for it. If it’s smaller than normal I’m always paddling. Even on a minus tide, there are good waves to paddle, in my opinion.
Are there any particular waves you’d like to hit this year? Maybe something international?
This year I would like to get back down to Mexico, grande tubos and surfing in board shorts is a fantastic place to be. Also there are some under-the-radar spots in California in Oregon that I would really like to go and check out.
Have there been any standout or highlight sessions this season?
This year I had a standout session down in Mexico. Below sea level, fast, grinding barrels. It was awesome. Also had some solo sessions with my pops at some secret spots in Santa Barbara county that were pretty special.
What’s worse: Taking one on the head at Mavs or having to deal with the paddle out during a big day at Ocean Beach?
I’ll take a crappy paddle out at big Ocean Beach any day of the week over a proper wave on the head at Mavericks. Paddling out at Ocean Beach is mostly a game of attrition and a great workout. Having a 20-footer landing on your head at Mavericks is absolutely terrible every single time.
What’re you most looking forward to this season?
I’m looking forward to getting through the upcoming Dungeness crab season and hammering that until the season is over. I’m focusing mostly on progressing in my career as a commercial fisherman. The money I make through that allows me the financial freedom to go chase surf and snow. Anything after work is a bonus.
You can keep up with Matt on his Instagram.