Oct 15, 2008

The Heart Of The Matter

When I was a little kid, we all rode airmats pumped up much as possible, and were incapable of cutting across fast waves. Our biggest stunt was to stand up on our rock-hard rafts, perched on the crest of a six foot shorepounder, then kamikazee over the falls in heroic or comical stances.

Bellyboards served for angling and tuberides. Of course we borrowed nine-to-ten foot 35 pound longboards to paddle out and emulate the surfstars of the early 60s. No one in Malibu was onto deflating mats to slide along the various cobble points. (Although, legendary waterman Pete Peterson was able to bodysurf underwater all the way down First Point, holding his breath like a dolphin.)

Hawaiian Paipos didn't satisfy us kids. When footage came out of mat surfing in Santa Barabara and Australia, we were too wrapped up in our psychedelic evolutionary shortboards. Boogie Boards were okay but not really getting it. Pretty soon local surfers in North Malibu were all riding 7'-8' singlefins. Then thrusters came out, and everything got very generic. I was over herd mentality by that time, and have kept at it with the thick railed pintail miniguns ever since.

Fortunately, when tiny trifins were proliferating, I got turned onto black nylon mats. I must have had a dozen of them over the years. Not one blew a seam. Some ripped open on the rocks. One blew away in Hawaii. Most I gave away to people who begged. Some were sold to pay bills. My last threadbare leaking tarbaby got thrown out during a garage cleanup by a friend's wife in Australia, when she though it was useless old camping gear.

About a month and a half ago I found out that 4GFs were available online and bought some. Now the 12' standup paddleboard (21st century goat-boat), 9'8" log, 8'6" gun and two sponges sit gathering cobwebs. I've got a raging matitis infection and refuse to undergo any sort of matectomy.

There is no rational explanation for this unusual addiction. It's certainly not for fame and fortune. I can't even get someone to take my picture on the silly things. When I tell people it's because I'm a nerd they don't buy it. And there's not all that much of psychological complex attempting to revive pre-adolescent memories by fulfilling subconscious desire to regress into deep mega-retro pseudo infantilism. Or is there?

Nah, mat surfing is just plain interesting. Making them go is interactive. Getting it right is an achievement. Letting it happen is zen satori. There's no pressure to perform. Who expects anyone to rip on an airmat? No one cares what you do. And they freak out when you zoom past them at thirty mph! It's a blast.

But is matting a healthy obsession? Is it worth shunning boarding for? Sometimes I worry about myself. Then I remember all the bumps and bruises and fiberglass cuts, fin slices, stitches, snapped surfboards, folded bodyboards, ego trips and altercations...

Yeah, I reckon that surfing an airbag actually goes straight to the heart of the matter...


bongoman said...

Great post Max - love it.

I too worry about myself as I reach for the mat out of my quiver yet again. But who am I to worry if it's good enough for someone like George :)

Your post reminds me of something Tom Wegener wrote on his website to the effect that if he could start his surfing life all over again, he would just need a 6' alaia and a pair of swim fins.

Similar sentiments are applicable to mat surfing I think.

Look forward to reading more here...

PG said...

Riding a mat reminds me of playing the bongos: basic, primal, visceral, and yet hard to improve on...