Riding the Mat
You can't be in a hurry.
There is a fair amount of unlearning that goes with the mat. You need to get past the “this will be easy, it's just a mat” stage. Did your last board dramatically change shape during the ride and utilize variable inflation?
You have to be prepared to devote your whole life to your practice.
I used to think in terms of “getting it wired” etc. Now I think that learning to surf with the mat will take the rest of my life and more. I am really happy about that by the way, it means there is always something new to discover.
It's not a matter of spending money, you have to spend your life.
Yes, you need a mat, and a good pair of fins is very helpful but you have to spend time in the water.
There is a great deal to learn and you can't do it quickly.
I know guys who can get a board wired in like three waves, two if they get some good waves. Then they go out and get a new board.
The mat takes time because you aren't riding the mat, you are working with the mat to explore the wave and waves are infinitely complex.
Mat riding isn't something that can be put into words. You have to practice before you can understand.
“Jet propelled body surfing”. That is as close as it gets and it doesn't even scratch the surface.
The mat teaches us to be natural.
Riding a mat doesn't really have any standard set of maneuvers. Yes, you can do bottom turns, it's great in the tube and it's bat-out-of-hell fast but it all really depends on the wave. The wave leads and you try follow along in a complementary way. The best times are often had when you just relax and marvel at the wave unfolding in front of you.
You can't force things, including practice.
The biggest advances will be made when you aren't trying. I have had sessions that I thought were going to be “marginal” turn into major turning points. This will have you spending weeks afterward trying to figure out what just happened and how to do it again.
Understanding is something that happens naturally.
Eventually you get it or at least a glimpse of it and you'll want to rush out to find someone to tell. Unfortunately when you find someone, the things you say don't capture it at all. But that's ok.
It's different for everyone.
How could it be any other way.
The main thing is is to reduce your desires and quiet your mind.
Take off, turn in, and hold on!
Practice takes a long time and you have to stay healthy.
You'll spend a lot of time in the water swimming. This constitutes one of the best all around exercise workouts ever. You should combine it with some yoga and some attention to your diet. I would expect mat surfers to live longer lives. That's good, there are lots of things to do.
About this blog post. I have been trying to think of something to say here that would be of a more instructional nature. I don't really think anyone can teach you how to surf but I wanted to try to come up with something. I had been working on it for a while and had made no progress. So I gave up and put the whole idea on the back burner. I got all of the bold lines from a book I am reading that has nothing to do with surfing, every sentence seemed to speak directly to the mat riding experience and I just wanted to pass it along.