You ride a what?

Craig Stecyk III supposedly said “ surf mats are the fly fishing of wave riding”

While I don’t want to assume his exact meaning, I believe he meant that mat surfers were above all else, really into it. Their approach is mindful. That their craft and approach was as adaptive as the fisherman whose flies were tied to mimic the ever changing dance between the cycle of fish and their prey. That mat surfers as a group are not people who buy their surf vehicles at Costco next to the DVD's and the cheap, one season lawn furniture.

I bring this up because I was lamenting the reaction of some board surfers when I try to explain the mat. First comment I get, is the standard “I used to ride one of those in the 50's, 60's and maybe 70's. So after the lesson about variable inflation, reshaping the mat to fit the wave and that it’s not straight off to the beach anymore, I get the money question.

Now I’m usually talking to someone with a two thousand dollar long board under their arm and judging from their 700 dollar wetsuit it’s likely that they have several more at the house in two inch increments. So when I say that these are hand made craft. That they are the result of thousands of hours of R&D and untold trial and errors. That these mats, are the regular ride of some of the best surfers in the world can be had for only a few hundred dollars, I am taken back, nay offended, with their response that “that’s a lot of money I thought they would be about 10 bucks ”

This has happened enough so that I have a perfect fantasy reply. “You know we had a revolution in the 60's so you wouldn’t have to ride long boards anymore. I would suggest you get your head out and sell that piece of shit relic reproduction and buy a quiver of surf mats ” But I don’t, partly because I really don’t care what people ride. I would even object strongly that anyone has the right to do so. And I feel that a truly adequate quiver would contain a broad spectrum of long boards, Alaia, thrusters, quads, Bonzers, hand planes, swim fins and mats.

After listening to my rant, foam dripping from the corners of my mouth, a friend stops me cold by replying that most people who ride mats are nice, normal, intelligent people and that if someone doesn’t “get it” after you do your best to explain it, then that’s ok. They weren’t meant to. It’s not their karma to ride a mat. This has the sweet benefit of keeping twenty first century mat riders in a mode a lot like surfers in the 1950's.  Except the equipment is much better!  Everyone either knows the other matters in the water (if there are any) or is looking forward to meeting them.

Like surfing before Gidget.

How cool is that!


Tom Threinen said…
VERY cool!

Nobody ever "gets" the mat when I try to explain it, even when holding one in my hands, squeezing it and waving it around. Out in the water, everyone notices you. But comments are indeed limited to "I used to ride one as a kid" and "Wow, they cost that much!". However, in almost every session one guy will paddle by and tell me how fast the mat goes. That always puts a smile on my face.

And the pre-Gidget feeling is right on. Just last week, I was walking back to my car after a great surf session, my mat rolled up in one hand and my Duckfeet fins hanging from my other hand. I was deep in thought but I noticed a young guy with a backpack and surfboard trotting up to me. He stops me, asks me about my mat, and then says he has a Neumatic in his backpack! I was stunned when he pulled a Nuematic bag out of his pack and unrolled a perfect Neumatic mat. He had purchased it years ago before Dale's health problems. He didn't ride it very often, but usually brought it to the beach. We talked, exchanged a few stories, introduced ourselves, instantly bonded by the secret knowledge of the surf mat. As we parted, he said "I think I'll leave my surfboard on the beach this time."

Tom T.
pranaglider said…
Thanks for your comment Tom. I have gotten comments from several people that echo your sentiments!
andrew said…
Right on' Prana and Tom. We're among a privileged few...
Unknown said…
as the late great Frank Zappa said to a bothersome interviewer about his music "you either get it or you don't. If I have to explain it, then you don't get it"
chiledub said…
"Don't be afraid, they're soft....."
pranaglider said…
Andy - It's the truth

Briney - I think that's going to be my new explanation when people ask.

Pete - I've had luck with the blue pills...;)
Quiver said…
When people ask me about the mat I don't try to defend the mat in any way. Somewhere between a hermit and Brine Time's comment, except I'm not sure I "Get It" all the way either. I'm also one of those surfers who always has it with me, but I don't ride it so often. Then again, that could be because it doesn't work very well in ugly beach break.
Anonymous said…
Mats work great in ugly beach break-- if the riders are on top of their game.

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