Feb 2, 2016

From Steiny ...

Joni Sternbach is documenting surf communities throughout the world using a process as old as photography itself. Wet plate tintypes. Like Matthew Brady's portraits of Lincoln. 

Her work can be seen here.  Surf culture photography here.

-- Steiny

This is from Joni's site...

Joni Sternbach is a native New Yorker. She holds a BFA in Photography from the School of Visual Arts and an MA from New York University/International Center of Photography.

Sternbach uses both large format film and early photographic processes to create contemporary landscapes and portraits. Her work centers on our relationship with water, contrasting some of the most desolate deserts in the American West to iconic surf beaches around the world.

"Photographer Joni Sternbach gets a lot of attention when she takes her wet-plate collodion equipment, used for the intricate photo process made famous during the U.S. Civil War, to beaches around the world. Besides the large cameras, pre-mixed chemicals and jugs of water, a dark box is required to create her tintype photos. “Once you go to a small beach with a big outfit you are very noticeable,” the native New Yorker says. Sunbathers, surfers and swimmers all wonder what’s inside, often asking her whether it’s a puppet show or cappuccino maker. “The size of the camera and the immediacy of the wet-plate collodion is what really draws people into this project,” Joni says. 'That is why the process is so important to me.' "

More from Joni:

"Many years ago I bought a handmade book with an antique tintype of a woman embedded into the cover. I intended to turn the book into a photo album of my pictures or maybe even my father’s. However, as I assessed the pictures in my archive and my fathers, I found none that I deemed worthy of this book with a beautiful cover. It remains blank to this day. The tintype on the cover beguiled me with the importance and meaning of a portrait. I did not know when I discovered this book, that I would one day be making tintypes myself.

The art and craft of making wet-plate collodion, tintypes is elaborate and dirty work. The silver nitrate used to sensitize the plates can oxidize on your skin and form a dark brown stain. The process is a finicky one that necessitates patience, experience and a touch of luck to make a good plate. It requires a portable darkbox or tent to sensitize and develop your plates in while on location. Your plates are the same size as the back of your camera, so if you want large plates, you must have a large camera.
The tin is coated with collodion (a mixture of gun cotton, alcohol and ether) and poured by hand on to your plate. It’s then sensitized in a bath of silver nitrate for several minutes. Once that’s done it’s placed into the back of the camera and it’s ready for exposure. Exposure times are guesstimated, and because the process is a wet one, the speed of the medium is very slow. My exposures range from ½ second to minutes, depending on subject matter, lens and light.

The next step is development, which is done in the dark box. Once developed and rinsed, the plate is taken out of the dark box and into the daylight where it’s fixed. This is the moment of excitement and discovery. As the plate is submerged into the fixer bath it transforms right in front of your eyes. It goes from looking like a bluish negative to becoming a positive image on blackened metal…in essence, a tintype.

This dark art, the craft of collodion is like old-fashioned magic. There are potions and elixirs that stain your fingers and have a strong smell. There is a dark box with a cloth of mystery and enchantment. There is a feeling of anticipation and exhilaration as each plate emerges from the fixer. The sense of collaboration is palpable, as my subjects and I both wait for the image to clear, to see if we each held up our end and made a good picture."

Abraham Lincoln. Photo: Mathew Brady

Jonathan Steinberg. Photo: Joni Sternbach

Jan 30, 2016

From Aaron ...

"4 second mark...not much, but something!"


Jan 28, 2016

From Eric ...


Hi Paul

We all have those great days, with sunny, offshore, pumping waves that we cherish.
BUT what about those ordinary days, where it's just a matter of "Getting Wet"?

I had one of those today. So I took my old faithfull "Vespa Roundtail" out at a local reef.
OK it was a bit onshore, but the sets had some push in them & in these conditions a "matman" can still have FUN.

Then 4 people saw me & decided I should not be allowed to have all the waves to myself...Hahahaha.

Regards Eric

Jan 23, 2016

WTF ???


And that's skateboarders' ... as in plural possessive, as if there are a cadre of millionaire skateboarders out there, looking for a new fashion direction.

Jan 17, 2016

Jan 12, 2016

The Netherlands: In The House ...

Hi Paul,

A good start of 2016!
Some nice winter swell in the Netherlands last week.
Went out on the Standard.


Jan 9, 2016

Tale Of Two Santas: Cruz and Barbara ...

Hi Paul —

Hello from Santa Cruz! Me and the Vespa have been getting along splendidly. Its an incredibly fun mat in small waves, but has been amazing in the bigger stuff we’ve been getting the past few weeks. Steiny and I had been out I think almost a week and a half straight on mats exclusively over the holidays (although I did give some time to a new paipo a friend made for me — a picture is below if you’re interested in taking a gander!)

I’m working on a film project with friends up here, and put together a quick little edit of Steiny getting some fun ones on his mat, hope you enjoy!

Suffice to say, I am smitten with mats — was a bit of a hull fanatic before, but they’ve taken a backseat to the prone craft. The ‘illusion of speed’ is simply great. Not many guys my age out there, so it’s also great to have guys like Steiny around who are happy impart their wisdom with the younger generation! 

Thanks again for all that you do!


Hi Paul,

You can go ahead and post the new video.

Aaron had a good cut line: "A quick and dirty video about slow and dirty waves."





About the video Dirk made of Poles yesterday. Dirk and I had been
planning to do a Poles video ever since we did the big day at Campus one
last year. Last year I rode the Lotus and was totally underpowered on
the receding mushy walls, despite the waves being triple overhead off
the top of the point. But I like a challenge so I told Dirk that I would
figure out how to ride my new Polara at poles. Our opportunity to
pull this off was yesterday and the waves were decently shaped and from
waist to shoulder high. I spent the last 3 days at grinding Sandbar and
before that riding hammering Rincon and before that charging big beach
break. Needless to say, I was already tired and not ready for the
softness of the wave at Poles.

My first ride was with the Polara at my normal air pressure (15
degree gap when folded over). I could barely catch the wave and the mat
wouldn't let loose. I let some air out and the second wave went a little
better and I managed to side slide for a short distance. I let a bunch
of air out so the mat was soft when flopped over 180 degrees and that
made all the difference. On the third wave, I did a 50 yard side slip
and had no problem getting on plane. After that, I rode a variety of
waves and found that the lined-up inside ones were better that then
shouldery set waves. About half way through the video I rode a wave on
my back (the wave where I never get out of the soup).

What you can't see in the video is all the stoke from the other surfers
both in the water and on the beach. They were excited to see a surf mat
having a good time out there. A few people mentioned they would like to
give a mat a try. Some of the old timers reminisced about learning to
ride waves on mats during their childhood and indicated a desire to ride
a mat again. Compared to the hype and intensity of the crowd at Sandbar,
this was a much more enjoyable atmosphere to surf in!

I promised Dirk that we will make another Poles video in the future and
I will ride the UDT. The UDT is ultimate weapon for waves like this.


Jan 5, 2016

From Lloyd ...

Hello Paul

I finally got some kind of footage of the matt - had the gopro strapped to my wrist  - when I get some better shots I will let you know 

Best wishes for 2016 

Cheers Lloyd

Jan 3, 2016

From Matt ...

Matt D forwarded this classic clip from Pacific Vibrations. There's some smoking hot mat riding going off at 1:55.  It's amazing how many mat riders can fit in a small space and still have fun!

"Cheers...  Happy new year... just had my first session of 2016...good wave count... yeah things are finally improving for us... hope you're well.

Matt D "

Dec 31, 2015

From Mr. Cook ...

Hi Paul,

Here's an old photo from Cronulla surf museum with the following comment from their Facebook page.

"Mats were popular in the early 70's riders like Steve Downey were charging all the heavy reef  breaks. This shot Dave Shaw is about to spin around on a late takeoff photo Tim Vanderlaan".

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year !!!


Dec 30, 2015

From Down Under...

Tracker Roundtail in full flight!

-- Nico

Dec 27, 2015

2015 Mat Surfing Awards !!!

2015 was a breakout year for mat surfing. But then again, so was 2014, 2013 and 2012. The culture of inflatable wave riding continues to explode, exponentially, year after year!

What better way to recognize mat surfing's impact than an award's show? Or at least, an awards blog posting...


Best New Word Of The Year:  "Matsplaining"

Simply defined as, "The overly wordy manner in which a mat surfer justifies a go-out to his or her Significant Other." The term 'matsplaining' first took hold along the California coast. Santa Cruz to be more specific. Steiny's house, to be laser accurate.

Not limited to the male of the specie, woman mat riders have embraced the combination of passion, selfishness, and bullshit known as 'matsplaining' as well!


Most Compelling TV Series:  "MAT MEN"

We all love following the savage manipulations of Matt Draper, as he runs rough-shod over an office full of land-locked lackeys in order to make to the shore before the sun drops...preferably with a beautiful blonde in tow!!!


Best Technological Advancement:  "Mat Recognition Software"

Ever been to the beach and wondered who was ripping on what make and model? Well those days of frustration are OVER! After years of development, software genius Mathew Puffin has developed the tools necessary to recognize -- and identify -- mats from over a thousand yards away!

Admittedly, the technology is still limited, as Mr. Puffin's software tends to focus on the more recreational mats currently available...but just look at this early batch of mats that were accurately ID'd !!!


Well done, sir!


Best Basic Cable Surf Commentary:  "Rachel Mattow

The center-left mat commentator had a stellar 2015, lambasting everything from SUPs to longboarders wearing leashes...and she did so on a nightly basis before a national audience!


Most Insightful Financial Advice:  "Mat Money"

Matt Kramer hit a home run with this latest money making strategy...selling 4GF stock at 2 cents a share, then shorting it when it hit 1 cent. He doubled his money, plowed the profits into more 4GF stock, and ended up with controlling interest. I for one welcome our new Wall Street overlord!


Most Progressive Social Movement:  "Matrosexual"

'Controversial' doesn't begin to describe the 2015 trend that everyone's talking about!

Some say it all started back in the 70's, when Fred Hemmings and an unidentified ABC announcer wore a matching outfits on air ...

 While others claim that "mat surfer vanity" had it roots going way back to the 30's...

 Regardless, our own Mister Dirk is credited with the revival of the concept in 2015...

Even Australians got in on the act, sprucing up for TV appearances with top end fashion gear...

And it's never too early to start!  This young mat surfer puts his best foot forward, sporting a two tone cap and jersey -- with a contrasting striped boardshorts -- all while causally bobbing in the surf on a 4GF...


Hoping your 2016 will be even better !!!