Jul 28, 2014

From Steiny ...

Hi Paul-
Glad to hear you are busy and the mats are flying out. That shout in the WSJ Times was cool.
Here is a shot that my friend Aurora Alifano took on a small day at Indicators when the once a decade sandbar set up last spring. While at first glance there is nothing remarkable about it, lately I have come back to it and really come to love it and the feeling it shows. So much texture!
Thanks the wonderful mats, the Omni has been living up to its name.
Best to you,

From Scott ...

Hi, Paul.
The Omni goes great! I think it’s got a magnet drawing it to the cleanest line — despite all my clumsiness and meddling. In lined-up surf, it runs best for me at lower inflations, with about a 150-degree bend yielding a good balance of speed and control.
During this break from cancer treatment, I’ve tried to get away from the crowds and a little outside of my usual comfort zones, seeking out weird little shelves and sand piles. The more steps in the face the better!
My only gripe about the Omni is that whenever anyone else is around, I hardly get to ride the damn thing. Everyone steals it: my son, wife, nieces and nephews, neighborhood kids, so-called friends, etc. Lately there’s been a lot of mat-induced laughter (and cackling!) in San Diego.

I had to pretty much wrestle the Omni away from a mob of kids to get that one wave (pictured) at Blacks.
I'm so jazzed that our 9-year-old's fallen in love with mats -- after so many false starts. And my wife's all in now, too. She says she doesn't have any more use for her longboard. Ha!
We're heading to Oz on Friday, health permitting. Still not sure if I'll even bring a board.

Scott Reeder 

Jul 27, 2014

From The Pendo Cabal ...


Good morning Paul,

We hope that our email finds you and Gloria doing well.
Last week Steve and I had barrels of fun riding our 4GF mats in the wild 5-6 second interval NW wind swell at Ocean Beach. With the warm water, bait fish were close to shore, and the sea birds and dolphin family were putting on quite a show as we were riding. On Wednesday I enjoyed mat surfing with Scott Reeder and his wife Pam and son Maz. We all had fun and Scott got some great rides, riding high in the pocket. Steve also rode on Thursday afternoon, sharing waves with the dolphins. Steve rode his 5GF and I rode my special Omni RT which I love. Thank you for making such fun, stoking surf craft!
This morning we were delighted to visit with our good friend Captain David Murline when we were on our walk. Dave proceeded to paddle out on his 4th Gear Flyer surf mat and get some great rides at a little summer fun reef. On our way back, I was fortunate to take a few pictures of one of Dave's rides. We hope that you enjoy the pictures.

David Murline is a wonderful guy and an all around waterman, the Captain of the Revelle, a research ship with Scripps Institution of Oceanography.

Warm wishes,
Cher and Steve

Jul 25, 2014

4GF Shipping Delay ...

The Wall Street Journal's vision of mat surfing...not bad!
As you know, we pride ourselves on getting mats out within 48 hours of receiving an order. And we work to maintain that pace while building every mat as a one-off to order. We don't keep mats in stock. Customers sometimes have a unique need, and we make minor changes from mat to mat in order to maximize fun and performance for them.

A few weeks ago, our good friend and mat enthusiast Mark Anders penned a nice primer on beginner-friendly surf vehicles for Wall Street Journal. Why WSJ -- or anyone who reads it -- would care about surfing, I have no idea! But mats got nice coverage, and as a result, orders have been pouring in over the last 3 weeks. Great news for us...but it has generated a backlog of orders I can't keep up with, even working 12 hours a day.

So...we're going to put a moratorium and quick deliveries for the next 3 weeks while I get caught up.

Any order received as of today will go out after August 15th. I will stay in contact with anyone who orders to keep them in the loop regarding the ship date of their mat.

Thanks for understanding...


Jul 23, 2014

From Michelle ...

Bretto at it again...

Jul 22, 2014

From Ida ...

Wow....so fast! Thanks so much Paul for such speedy and great service!  I really am excited.  I will be sure to tell everyone about you since I am sure I will get lots of inquires.

I would have bought one from you years ago had I known that your company existed. Instead I have been missing what I thought were bygone days of mat surfing.

I found this photo of myself out with my dog at Bird Rock in La Jolla so many years ago. Date was around 1983. My dog's name was Risa (Spanish for Smile). The dog never swam out to the big waves, so I would just take her out for a swim and then she would turn around and go back.

It was an old mat and not many people had mats anymore. (I think I had bought two so I would have an extra when they were getting hard to find.) I was truly one of the last holdouts. I used to paddle out with the surfers at Bird Rock, La Jolla. The guys all knew me so they didn't give me any grief for being out there in "their" waves on a surfmat.  They actually thought it was funny that I was still riding one.



Jul 18, 2014

From Peter, Still On The Road ...

Hi Paul,

Here's the blog for my trip.

The surfmat has been awesome!

I'm behind a bit on posts so will try to upload some more.  Also having some trouble with my water camera, so troubleshooting that so I can take some more surf photos (I will upload a few soon but they're not great... Camera stopped working on the better shots last two sessions).



UPDATE:  7-19-14

Thanks, Paul!  Neat to be in surfmatters.

The mat has been great and lots of people are always interested in it - have directing people to check out your site (and just updated my gear page to include a link to surfmats.com as I keep getting so many questions about the mat).  It's for sure the ideal surf vehicle for a bike trip (might do a post about that) and lots of folks in general have just been stoked on they mat.


Jul 17, 2014

Michelle Going For It !!!

Hi Paul,

Here's Michelle on the Standard.


From T. Wild ...

Hi Paul,
The online mag I mentioned in my last email has published the article. I think it shows matting in a great light. Have a look.   

Jul 16, 2014

From Retired Guy Eric ...

Hi Paul
Gotta tell ya mate, this being retired (one year today) is the way to go. I have lost count of the number of great days and surfs we have had, here on the South Coast NSW.
Attached are just a few piccies taken by Adam of the waves we had this week. Been sliding on my DRP Omni as slack me has still not fixed my 4GF Standard.
Eric Da Bolt 

Jul 14, 2014

Liquid Salt 2.0 !!!

Thanks to many of you, the kickstarter campaign for Liquid Salt Surf Magazine 2.0 was wildly successful. Glenn Sakamoto will launch his new site this Tuesday, July 15th. 

The link to the new Liquid Salt is here!

This is Glenn, in case you see him in the lineup and want to tell him he has the best on-line surf mag going...

Jul 6, 2014

More Video Anaysis From Bretto ...

Hi Paul,

Sometimes these peaky closeouts provide a bit of punch. See how fast the standard is on these couple of short rides.


Jul 4, 2014

From Bretto and Michelle ...

Hi Paul,

Michelle has a cold so she took a bit of video.

Its school holidays here now and as well the Lennox Head Grom Fest is on so its hard to find a wave with all the people around. I'm riding the Standard, as you can see I still had to work it a bit as the waves even though they look great were pretty gutless.


Jul 3, 2014

From Captian Tom In Brazil: GGGGOOOOOOAAAAALLLL !!!!!

Hola Paulo,
from the dive - with strange telenovelas with white blonde women - in the background -in Boiçucanga, Sao Paulo (!).
After all that great mat-geek-centric stuff you've been posting - and after a few (politically incorrect) beers and caipirinhas and some perfect after-surf 'Lula a dorê' I've decided to bother you with ex-mat-centric stuff.
Folks are totally into the REAL football world championships here.
The guys providing for the beachfolk are seriously awesome and mix good stuff.
And - after several hours of sliding waves and climbing back onto my (inflatable - at least it's that - same thick round rails as a mat - makes me think about peeling off the fins) sup - the session in the beachbreak on the XL was just plain - GREAT! 

Anyone going to Brazil: Bring a mat and go to the beach!
Good people and good vibes.
Hope, all is well.

Jul 2, 2014

From Colin ...

Hi Paul!
Been having a blast on the mat lately.  Also lets me ride my bike to the surf spots which is liberating
Finally caught the wave I was talking about, the mile-long swim back to shore isn't too bad on a mat  ;) 

As usual, photo credit to the good folks @ http://internet-flexin.tumblr.com/
Leaving next week on our bike trip, I may order an OMNI in preparation for our arrival in southern California.
All the best,

Jun 29, 2014

30 Years of Testing and Tinkering #8: The Slow Leak Revolution: Part 2

“Progress” in the field of mat design had been moving at a snail’s pace since the first surf mats appeared on beaches in the 1930’s...

The reasons were simple. Even the earliest mat worked pretty good, and there weren’t that many “serious” mat surfers in the world. Plus, mats were mass produced, so unlike the burgeoning custom surfboard industry of the 50’s and the 60’s, the needs of individuals were lost to the restrictions of the manufacturing process. Mats were sadly lacking...stuck in a 'one size fits all' mode.

By the early 60’s, George Greenough started riding stock Converse Hodgman mats softer and softer, to wring more performance out of ’em. A combination well-broken in fabric and low inflation levels added a 2nd, 3rd and sometimes even a 4th gear to his straight line speed. His enormous surfing talent combined with the quality point and reef surf in the Santa Barbara area netted an effective approach.

The late 60’s saw some progress. One Australian company market a serious surfmat with rocker built into it. That mat, while sluggish, turned easily and was the first attempt to advance design beyond sticking crude rubber fins on the tail. (I believe the name of that rockered mat was something like, “The New Curve To Surf.”)

In the early 70’s, Woody Woodworth, down in Corona Del Mar, started customizing Hodgmans by laminating a second layer of canvas for supreme toughness, and adding small twin fins to the tail.  While these rafts were the polar opposite of Greenough’s finless, softer-is-better design paradigm, ‘Woody Rafts’ were well-suited to the dangerous, jetty-adjacent surf in his area. It was probably the first instance of mats being built (or in this case, heavily modified) for one particular need.

By 1978, the Morey Boogie had killed off the high end surf mats like the Hodgman Converse, and the cheaper, Taiwan-built Rip Curls and Merrins replaced them by default. Unintentionally, these flimsy mats gave us insight into what could be achieved with more pliable fabric. Then George broke the scene wide open when he started riding Merrins with the bottom canvas torn off, leaving only the raw rubber liner material as the bottoms skin. “The Peelers” were the first mats to really exploit the idea that a mat built with thin fabric could excel. They were very fast by that era’s barometer. Whenever we’d drag out a Hodgman for old time’s sake, it was a shock how heavy, stiff and slow they were by comparison to the Peelers.

In response to that upgrade, Merrin modified their mat design with a nylon-over-rubber bottom, which added slickness, but was actually stiffer than the canvas and rubber bottom. So not a real improvement, but a good attempt.

For a couple of years, roughly 1980 through 1982, the Merrin Peelers were the gold standard of mat surfing, at least among the Greenough-cognoscenti. But they were fragile, and didn’t inspire confidence in larger surf. You always had to travel with a couple of spares in the trunk to make sure you got through a session.
While the Peeler-era was percolating, George had been talking on the phone with Dale Solomonson up in Oregon. Dale was into building tri-plane ethafoam body boards. George, predictably, urged him to get into mat riding. Dale got a hold of some of the new Rip Curls – which were similar to the Merrins -- but they were a hassle to source, and ended up being costly due to his location. So he started building his own mats.

Somewhere in the mix of his early mats, Dale built a mat out of naugahyde vinyl. It was the first attempt to build a mat from scratch based on George’s belief that softer was better. The report filtered back to us that the naugahyde mat went well in the beginning, but quickly lost its structural integrity with use…vinyl being vinyl and all. Still, it was a step into the future.

At that point, we started talking about making our own mats, since the commercial supply was quixotic at best, and Dale had proven that building them was a viable option.  
Here’s where it started to get tricky…

Greenough's spoon kneeboards were the most demanding surf craft on the planet to build. They took over 100 hours of work, spread over a month, to build.

Here's an example of a spoon I made for Spencer Kellogg back in 2001. You can plainly see how many glass layups there were to provide the right combination of stiffness, flex and strength...

The fin alone took days to craft. A 75 layer, hand laid glass panel to start with...
Followed by endless hours of itchy grinding...

Adding to their massive build time, spoons demanded both size and quality surf to get them rolling. Big, hollow, offshore, and empty...good luck finding that combination more than a few times a year!

So...mats had always been George’s “no-brainer” fall-back for everyday surf. There was purity to the pursuit that resonated with George. “Just buy one, blow it up, and go surfing!” was his mantra.  

All these factors made George -- in spite of his status as the seminal creative force in the surfing world -- reticent to start building mats himself. It contradicted everything he believed in, mat-wise. Plus, he was now stuck into designing sailboards that were even more complex and time consuming to build than his spoon kneeboards...  

But mat surfing’s hoi-polloi (that would be the rest of us) started to look around and wonder…is there a better path to inflatable Valhalla,beyond George’s simple 'buy-and-surf' approach?

In late 1982, Dale began talking about welding up a mat with some light, heat sealable nylon fabric he had sourced. My immediate response was, “Copy the old Stripes-Down Converse Hodgman shape!” In spite of its weight and out-of-date stiffness, that particular Hodgman had been the most potent design in the long history of mat surfing. The newer, lighter, softer mats like the Merrin ‘Peelers’ had taken mat surfing to a new level…but because of their pliable material, not necessarily because of their shape. The long, lean Hodgman that George rode in the footage in Rubber Duck Riders (later seen in Crystal Voyager) was still the most desirable mat when the surf was clean and hollow. 

I drove over to George’s home one afternoon, let him know what was brewing, and pulled out one his old Hodgmans for some reverse engineering. I was surprised how much variation there was from one pontoon dimension to the next. That mat was nowhere near being symmetrical. I mentioned this to George as I was measuring it, and he broke out laughing. “It’s a surf mat, not an F-14! They aren’t supposed to be perfect!”

Yes, F-14's are more complex than surf mats!

I averaged out the wild variations of the Hodgman’s interior dimensions, and forwarded the numbers to Dale.

February 1983 saw a string of big, sloppy, rainy El Nino swells hit the West Coast. The day the first nylon mat arrived at our door, the surf was pumping. There was no non-skid on the deck of the Dale's new mat, and it was obvious that it would be too slick and slippery to ride. I had a case of Slipcheck in my garage left over from the 60’s, so George and I cracked open a can, hit the deck with a quick coat of the stuff, and headed out to find some waves to ride. 

The surf was sloppy, but head higher or better. It was threatening rain. The sea was brownish but not chocolate water. No one was out. It seemed like the end of the world. In retrospect, there couldn’t have been a better scenario for the mat riding world to take a giant leap forward.
George snagged the first wave on the new mat, and disappeared down into the cove of the off-the-beaten-path point we were riding. I could see his track coming over the back of the wave, and it was like a white slit in the water...as opposed to the snowplow wake a conventional surf mat carves. And the track was really long and straight. He was flying! George came paddling back a few minutes later and was speechless…which, if you know George, is a momentous occasion.  
He finally blurted out, “This thing isn’t a little bit faster, it’s a lot faster!”

Over the course of that afternoon, George and I rode dozens of waves, head high or bigger, with the new nylon mat. The uncured Slipcheck on the deck wore off quickly, and that made it hard to ride. But the mat never hit terminal velocity. Every looming section, however distant, got eaten up. The other mat we had out, a 'cutting edge' Merrin Peeler, suddenly seemed crude and slow.
So George’s belief that a more pliable mat would go faster was now proven beyond any doubt. The nylon fabric was light and flexible, but had enough integrity so it didn’t get saggy or mushy. The combination of “soft but crisp” material was obviously going to be the ticket.

Phase 5 of The Slow Leak Revolution had begun!

As we got more water time in on the nylon version of the old Hodgman shape, it became obvious that the superb handling of the old Hodgman had been, at least in part, due to its weight and roughly-textured canvas fabric. Dale’s slicker and lighter version had problems holding into steep sections, even when it was inflated to a nearly full level.

So our take-away was this: The new material was a resounding success...but future nylon mats would have to break new ground, design-wise, to exploit the speed of next-gen fabric without any loss of handling.

No one could have imagined how much time and money -- and fun -- it would take to sort it all out!