Have board will travel: Matt Becker logs miles for SUP, big-wave surfing

Stand-Up Paddle surfing has taken Santa Barbara's Matt Becker all over the world. He is one of the elite competitors in the sport. (Photo courtesy of Matt Becker)

Stand-Up Paddle surfing has taken Santa Barbara’s Matt Becker all over the world. He is one of the elite competitors in the sport. (Photo courtesy of Matt Becker)

Matt Becker can fill in for the character of Waldo in the “Where’s Waldo?” series of children’s books.

The 19-year-old Santa Barbaran has been all over the place. Just replace the red-and-white-striped shirt, black-rimmed circular glasses and red-and-white bobble hat with board shorts, a Stand-Up paddleboard and a paddle.

Presidio Sports was fortunate enough to find the local waterman before he heads off on a journey that will take him to Utah, Hawaii, Oregon, Mexico and back to Hawaii. He had just returned from the islands, where he competed in the prestigious and grueling Molokai to Oahu World Championships last month.

“(It’s) a race I do every year,” he told a reporter in an email. “To do well at that race and cross that 32-mile stretch of open ocean known as the Kaiwi Channel, you not only need to be extremely fit and a strong paddler, but also have an innate understanding of the ocean and its moods.”

In his third year doing the race, Becker finished third in the 14-foot stock division with a time of 5 hours, 14 minutes and 30 seconds. He was the best overall finisher from the mainland.

In other major SUP competitions this year, Becker placed sixth at the 13-mile Carolina Cup off Wrightsville Beach, N.C., won the dual paddle and placed fourth in the shootout at Surftech Shootout in Santa Cruz and took first place at the Jay Moriarty Memorial Race in Santa Cruz. He capped last season with a fourth-place finish at the inaugural Ultimate SUP Showdown in Waikiki, Hawaii, an event that featured the cream of the crop of the sport competing in racing and surfing.

If competing in SUP events wasn’t enough, Becker dived into the world of big-wave surfing.

For the last two years, he’s surfed the monster waves of Mavericks in Half Moon Bay.

“Big wave surfing, for me, is just something I like to do; surfing Mavericks and beginning to understand that wave has become a focus of mine in the last couple years,” he said. “Surfing big waves is one of my passions and there’s no competition to it … yet. I would like to do a few big-wave competitions, though, as I progress at it.”

Right now, he’s prepping for a trip to Salt Lake City for the Outdoor Retailer Show, where he’ll present his signature race board model that he and sponsors Surftech and Bark Paddleboards have worked on over the last year.

“After that, I will be flying straight from Utah back to Hawaii for the 2014 Ultimate SUP Showdown in Waikiki.”

This year’s Showdown (Aug. 16-18) is moving to the next level. The prize money has increased and there’s a television deal with the CBS Sports Network.

After hopefully getting some national TV exposure, Becker will head back to the mainland and compete at the Colombia Gorge Paddle Challenge in Oregon.

Then comes a big-wave surf trip to Puerto Escondido, Mexico before finishing the paddling season “with lots of training and the final competition of the year, the Battle of the Paddle,” in Hawaii.

That’s his calendar for the coming weeks.

Before that, it’s been: “Where’s Matt Becker?”

“This summer has been crazy. I’ve probably been home 10 days in the last two months,” he said. “I was traveling up and down the coast of California for a couple of weeks doing lots of stand-up paddle racing and training with friends. Then I was in Santa Cruz for the Jay Race for about a week. The Monday after that race I drove down to Santa Barbara to spend three days packing up for a two-week trip to Oregon, where we did a four-day paddling expedition down the southern coast of Oregon, camping and bringing our gear with us along the way.

“After making the 13-hour drive home, I took a long nap and packed up six boards and a duffel bag to catch a 6 a.m. flight out of LAX, bound for Mexico, to hopefully get some pumping surf in Puerto Escondido.”

Unfortunately, the big waves never materialized.

“What I did get was some fun surf (none of the big waves I came for), the flu, and quite a few funny stories,” he said of the trip. “I had four days at home to get over the flu and pack before I flew out to Maui to spend a week preparing for the Molokai to Oahu World Championships.

“So, to answer your question, I have not been home much this summer,” he laughed.

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