Mar 20, 2010

Inflation Levels Revisited


Occasionally, we get emails from mat riders asking about inflation levels. Sometimes they're experiencing a touch of frustration riding their mat at the softer settings preferred by surfers like George G.

After riding the often powerful and disorganized conditions along the Central Coast of California for the past 7 months, I can relate to their predicament!

The lower inflation levels (a 90 degree bend, or more) that work so well in point surf can be a liability in dumpier surf. If you're lacking the smooth, linear power line of a point break, riding a softer mat can be haphazard at best.

Because so many factors go into the "correct" inflation level on a given day, it's important to keep in mind that the variable nature of a surf mat should be used to it's fullest extent. There are no hard and fast inflation rules!

In point surf, I usually ride a mat which is bent around 90 degrees. But my experiences this winter on the Central Coast have resulted in a 45 degree bend most of the time. Meaning, a lot more air. This is because, in the punchy waves I ride, I don't need the delicate skimming ability generated by a flatter mat. And the extra hold of a firmer mat helps me track across uneven, backwashy shorebreak walls with a lot more authority.

Again, inflation is a personal choice...determined by your experience, mood and the waves you are immersed in. The correct setting is the one that works for you!

8 comments:

misterdirk said...

I've fallen into a regular routine each time I begin a session. Especially during this fantastic past winter season, my gut sense about inflation levels has really improved. I blow the mat up to about 80 percent (folds about 35-40 degrees). When it touches the cold water it loosens quite a bit, to about a 60 degree fold. I paddle out that way, maybe catch a couple, and then usually release a little air while I'm lying aboard, in riding position. Maybe 1 second or so. I can feel it wrap a little around my torso. Once I've found the right inflation level, I don't have to change much during a session. It's remarkable how much difference is created by adding or subtracting just a puff of air, just a mouthful.

Most takeoffs are super easy on a mat. If I have to struggle to catch the wave, then I'll add a little air. If my ride feels a little sticky and doesn't accelerate smoothly, I'll release a little.

During the very biggest and juiciest waves I rode this winter the mat was at about 60 percent inflation. I could crush my hands into the front corners and hug a lot of loose fabric to my chest when things got rough. I liked being able to duck dive and generally manhandle the thing in whitewater.

GRAYMAN said...

I completely agree with this post. Whatever works is right.

G

pranaglider said...

The beauty is that with a mat you can adjust it! Day to day and wave to wave.

MAT MAX said...

Agreed. Inflation is the difference between frustration and satisfaction. Do not fear to add air as the waves get steeper and deeper. More air is essential in gnarly suck-outs. Ride your mat hard in tossing tubes. The drag will equal controlled speed, and the fully round rails will do lots more to hold a line than will sqeezing your mat to make hard round rails. More air is good in juicy waves, as the mat becomes more like a board than an accomodating bag of air, and the semi-solid hull tends to maintain forward progress in the steeps...

GRAYMAN said...

I struggle with my XL in suckier stuff given the volume when fully inflated. I'd be interested to try a Standard. Too small for me but on wedges, etc...

G

MAT MAX said...

Seems that fully inflated is a bit much for all but the craziest waves. A bit of loose fabric is helpful to carry speed. And then not much squeezing is required to gain maximum rail grip on the face.

Festus Porkmeyer said...

Excellent PSA. Or make that Mat Service Announcement?

Anonymous said...

This morning in some overhead dredgy semi closeouts, with my new standard at full inflation (which ive never tried on my fatty), had some great barrels without sliding out. No probs keepin your line and speed with plenty of air when the wave has plenty of power. Horses for courses
Steve (sydney)