a simple joyful pleasure

Photo by Ken Samuels

Riding a mat is not like riding anything else,
but at times it's like riding everything else.

It's not like a body board.

Yes, you have fins. Yes, you are treated like a lower life form in the lineup for no good reason. But there is a whole lot more going on with a mat that isn't with a body board. You do reshape the body board as you ride but not nearly to the extent as you do on a mat.

Mattitude off the top at speed, while reshaping the mat and getting ready for the next section
photo by Ken Samuels

It's not like a short board.

First there is no ER or ING so there is no mass marketing machine telling you how cool you are if you have the right t-shirt and surf the "right" way. There is no "three turns to the beach" mentality in surf mat riding. But seriously, when you are riding a mat you are surfing the wave in a more intimate way than you could possibly do when riding a fixed fin hard board. You can't really say you reshape your short board on the fly to fit the ever changing wave face. The "moves" are a lot more subtle and aren't really maneuvers at all but optimizations to fit the context of the wave at the moment.

It's not like a long board.

Well maybe it is more like a long board. Position surfing, working with the wave, an emphasis on trimming and finding those spots on the face that provide bursts of speed. And the tube riding, eh well then again, maybe it's not like a long board.

Sideways thru the end of the outside waiting for the inside section to set up
Photo by Jason of Daily Bread
It's "like jet-propelled bodysurfing"

This is right from the horses mouth. Some people say that a mat is a good thing to ride when it's big and bumpy, and it is a good thing to ride when it's big and bumpy. But it is even better when it is dredging and pitching. Don't take my word for it. Go look and any of the George Greenough's tube shots. Most were done while he was riding a mat. There is a feeling of connectedness with the wave that really helps when you are trying to sit in the tube. You can see the wave changing ahead of you and you can feel it, thru the mat, underneath you. You make small changes in the ebb and flow of your slide as the wave ungulates around you. Usually done while unknowing cackling your lungs out, at full speed.

Photo by Harold Ward 
(He's that dot in the channel remotely activating the camera on George's back. He has his hands full) 

I have kept you a long time but here is one more comparison.

I surf in one of the more crowded areas of Southern California. But I surf alone. I surf it like it a early 60's longboard, lots of soul but maybe not that exciting to watch. But I am having a blast! As much fun as those first days as a super stoked grimmie in the shore break at Huntington. I hope to, someday, be a part of the mat revolution. Faster, more turns, more "total involvement". But right now it's like the 1950's or early sixties and I don't see another mat rider for miles and if I saw someone with a mat I would pull my car over and chat because I either know them or I share something very important with them.

So my final comparison is that mat riding is a lot like surfing used to be, a simple, joyful pleasure shared amongst friends.

Chiledub, Tom, some kook with a blog and Ken Dog. Post session conference (this ain't no bored meeting!)


Tom Threinen said…
Exactly! Last time I was walking out of the water a guy with a shortboard and a big grin on his face stopped me to tell me he just got a 4th Gear Flyer in the mail but hasn't tried it yet. He was stoked to see a mat surfer at the beach. I'm sure he took his mat out next time.
Tom T.
Paul Gross said…
I may have to quit posting on Surfmatters...can't top this!
Tremendous stuff mate. Good work.

pranaglider said…
thank you for your comments. the joys of mat riding surpass mere words!
surfempty said…
Describing the indescribable! A "just so" read, Dan
Mat Max said…
I quite concur most indubitably! :-]
Growling Gecko said…
We need more posts like this that have a crack at describing what it is like to surf a mat. I too came to the conclusion recently that a mat has much of the ability of both a short board and a longboard. In some circumstances though, a mat surpasses the ability of each of those craft and that is very compelling when combined with the sensation of doing so!

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