Ocean Matt is a sailor, professor, dancer, acrobat, gymnast, conservationist, philanthropist, and friend. A typical day for Matt is a 25 mile bike ride, followed by teaching oceanography at the university for 5 hours. Then, meeting friends in the park to juggle, strap walk, or do acrobatics. Without eating (he doesn’t make the time) he will go dance till midnight at a swing hall. Of course Matt goes out of his way to dance with all the girls (or guys) that don’t have partners so that they can have fun. After that he will go spend time playing the guitar and talking to friends like me till 3 am…and that is just a weekday.

Matt likes to “get upside down”, and that is how I met him. He taught gymnastics for 27 years, an accomplishment in itself. However, unlike most people, Matt never said, “I only coach team,” but rather enjoyed helping little level one girls straighten their tutus and learn to walk across a beam. His thrill wasn’t from watching the big skills, but from watching the first ones.

Matt understands what is happening to the world and feels powerless to help it, yet that doesn’t stop him from trying. Despite the oil spills, the Great Pacific Garbage Patch, litter, or the plight of the fish, the Native Americans, or the ecosystem…Matt sees it all and tries to help. Daily he picks up two pieces of garbage for every piece he produces. Currently he is designing better salt marsh drainage systems. He adds a voice protest for those whose voice is small. Matt rides his bike everywhere and rarely drives.

It is people like Ocean Matt that inspire me to do what I can do…pick up litter, help a friend move, or use human powered machines. Matt understands my pilgrimage, because he himself has ridden across country three times. The first time when he was only 17. There is no other way to say it but Matt is remarkable…and certainly not ordinary. I desperately wanted to draw his portrait, but a couple beers and the clock striking 3am found that task to be more than I was able. Still Matt was ever gracious and thanked me profusely for it.

Matt is one of my heroes.

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