The freedom and exhilaration of being one with the ocean is an experience many can relate to, but for 14-year-old Vela Mattive, that connection has become a calling to compete and push herself to the next level.
Her surfing journey is just beginning, but Mattive reached a major milestone when she captured the National Scholastic Surfing Association U14 National Championship at a November competition in Huntington Beach.
“All you think about is what’s happening in the moment,” said Mattive of being out in the water. “When I caught my first wave, I felt a connection.”
Mattive’s love for surfing blossomed when her family moved to Santa Barbara from the East Coast around her 9th birthday. Rincon Beach is her home base ― it’s where she developed her skills and honed her competitive edge. In addition to winning the Championship, she is a two-time West Coast champ, four-time national finalist, and holds a place on the U.S.A. surf team.
“She puts in the time,” said Dave Letinsky, who runs the Sexwax surf team that Mattive competes for. “She has a very good blossoming skill set that will expand as she gets bigger and stronger.” Letinsky’s role extends beyond a surf instructor into more of a life coach who helps Mattive stay on the trajectory to become a world-class star.
Competing comes naturally for Mattive. Whether it’s asserting herself on a wave at Rincon or executing a heat strategy, she does not shy away from the moment. She aspires to one day claim a spot on the world tour and surf in the Olympics.
“Most people just go down the trail at Rincon, enjoy the beauty of the waves, and have fun,” Letinsky said. “You have to have that competitive fire in you if you want to make it in the pro ranks, that’s for sure.”
Rincon is a point break, which doesn’t translate very well to competition. In the lead-up to the national championships, Mattive prepared by traveling to Ventura almost every day to surf “bad waves” and set up mock heats. Any setbacks along the way have not discouraged her.
Mattive is homeschooled, so a routine of waking up early and heading to Ventura before coming home to complete her schoolwork has paid dividends. When the surf is really good, she’ll even go back in the evening.
“She is very committed,” Letinsky said. “I don’t know any youngster that is at Rincon any more than her.”