You can't be in a hurry
** I posted this awhile back and with some editing I think it still has some value.
There is a fair amount of unlearning that goes with riding a 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? Mats have all these secret unmarked activation spots that when squeezed or un-squooze (I like to make up words, the more nonsenseable the better. I apologize in advance) during different parts of your flight shore ward can cause increased enjoyment of your surf and may even extend to the rest of the day.
I used to think in terms of “getting a board wired” etc. Long boards short boards bonzers and twin fins. 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.
You are basically riding a ball of air on the wave face.
Your can't be in a hurry and you have to take your time.
You need a mat, and a good pair of fins is very helpful but you have to spend time in the water.
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 next ten sessions would be no different than the last two.
The mat takes time because you aren't just 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 observant
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.