Things I LOVE about the mat
1) Everywhere in my local wave arena was flat. Took a chance at a local hot spot I used to surf everyday but haven't visited in ages. Most sets were knee high but occasionally bigger. What the heck, I paddled out, everyone else paddled away and I had occasionally perfect double overhead (on the mat) waves to myself! I never could have had that much fun on so little surf with a hard board. If I did I would have attracted a crowd.
2) You get to be in the water. I know everyone surfs in the water but if you are body surfing or on the mat you are IN THE WATER. I love it. The word "frolicking" comes to mind.
3) I tend to, well let's just say "obsess" about equipment. I just want to know how it works. So I can optimize the next board. But there are no perfect boards. Some paddle well, some turn, some tube ride. The "best board" is a compromise. Although there are different kinds of mats etc, I have one mat, it is PERFECT and it's done. A quiver in a bag! If I want to change it I can (and do wave to wave and section to section really). Ultimately configurable! So I tweak over fins instead. Still great fodder for the meditation cushion though.
4) Very easy and low profile approach. If I lived to the north, or the south really there might be a hike involved to get to the beach. Fins and mat fit in a pack with room to spare. I live in a metropolis where every beach has been bulldozed flat and outfitted with a parking lot and bathrooms to maximize the quality of the beach experience and number of visitors. So the easy approach in my environment is I can suit up grab my mat and fins and carry all the family accoutrement's. This should let me blend in with the summer hoards. (Alas I did get outed last weekend.)
5) Ten feet to two feet the mat is a quiver in a bag. The day I surfed and it was knee high for the stand ups, there were as there often are the occasional good head high sets. The same mat that works on 10 inch waves works on 10 foot waves. There is no "I should have brought my long board, fish, gun, quad, SUP" remorse.
6) Glassy waves are nice. Choppy waves are also nice. The mat adjusts to choppy conditions very well. When the wind comes up and everyone splits as long as the shape is still there you can still be on it! The same thing when its offshore! The variable inflation of the mat adapts to the water surface. I believe the Greenough quote about the mat ability to deal with windy condition goes "like a Cadillac over potholes!".
PS - Dale sent the perfect photo to go with the post. Warren Pfeiffer flying across small Noosa. Thanks Dale
PPS - I have been staring at this picture for two days now. (weird i know) But I have come to the conclusion that if you are doing it "right" this is what it looks like. I know it's subtle but this is my thinking. This wave is only knee high. The section he is in wouldn't be called critical. But check the speed spray coming off the back of the mat! Still shots lie like a rug but he is flying at this point!! Just letting the mat do it's thing and making little adjustments.