Jul 10, 2011

The Latest Mat Upgrade...

A few months back Jamie emailed me and asked if there anything new on the horizon, design-wise. I had to admit that since the roundtail mats were tuned-in during the spring of 2010, not much was happening.

Over at ukmatsurfers.com, Grayman has been refining his grip system for the smooth-deck/thin-topped mats, and that's kept me thinking about the conundrum between really firm deck grip (like rubber grit with Vulkem, Tremflex, etc) and the ability to move around on your mat while riding (like on a canvas mat.)

Maybe it's a generational thing, but I think shifting positions on my mat while surfing is both fun and functional. Being raised riding canvas mats, it's second nature for me to move around during a ride when the situation calls for it...and I don't like losing that aspect of mat surfing. But after surfing super grippy rubber grit decks for 25 years (on the first-gen 4GFs) I also know the value of staying stuck on with more authority...mostly when pushing through larger surf, or pulling into thick sections.

The nylon canvas decks on the current generation of 4GF's are a lot better than the old cotton canvas decks, but they aren't perfect. Obviously, the ideal would be the best of both....more grip than pure canvas, without sacrificing the ability to easily pull yourself up onto the mat after take off, and slide around during the ride.

I've fiddled around with waxing up the decks of my canvas decked mats in the past, but the grip never felt right. A while back, I ran a hair dryer over the top of a mat that had a waxed deck, to see if I could dissolve the wax into the fabric to the point where it might "go away."

I took that mat out for a surf, and within a few minutes I realized that this deck might be what I'd been looking for all along. The mat had noticeably more grip than a plain canvas deck, but didn't resist any attempt to move around on it. The more waves I rode, the more stoked I got. The grip was no where near as solid as the rubber grit decks, but the improvement over canvas-alone was noticeable.

When I got home from that go out, I pulled a length of deck fabric onto my build table and started experimenting with various waxes, number of coats, combinations of hard and soft wax, less heat, more heat, etc.

What worked best was actually pretty simple...two light coats of refrigerated "cool water" surf wax, soaked into the fabric with a hair dryer set on medium heat.

Why refrigerated surf wax?

I noticed that when I rubbed "cool water" surf wax onto the deck, the soft wax transferred onto the deck in clumps. I didn't care much for that. And I didn't have that problem when I had applied the harder canning paraffin onto the deck. So I tried chilling bars of surf wax in the refrigerator. It firmed up the wax so it came off onto the canvas in small, controlled bumps, leaving a pretty even layer on the deck.

In any case, here's a tutorial on the way I think melted wax should be applied to a mat...

Place a bar of cool water surf wax in the fridge for at least an hour. (It'll hold it's firmness for as long as it takes to complete the entire operation.) If you're in the tropics, firmer "warm water" wax is fine.

Blow up your mat firmly, and run the chilled surf wax over the tops of the pontoons. This is roughly what the mat should look like after one coat of wax. Remember, you'll being doing two coats, so don't put too much on.

Deflate your mat, then gently go over the waxed areas with a hair dryer set on medium. This photo shows the mat after the middle pontoon is complete. Take your time, as there's no need to overheat the deck of the mat for the sake of brevity.

If you choose not to deflate your mat before applying heat to the deck...expect the expected!

All three pontoons are complete. You don't have to make every bit of the wax disappear in to the fabric, just most of it. Once you finish this step, repeat the entire process again. Blow up your mat, go over it with a second light layer of chilled surfwax, deflate it, then soak the wax in with the hair dryer. Or, you can be conservative and try it out in the water with one coat, then add a second if you want a bit more grip. However, two coats seem ideal to me. From my tests, there doesn't seem to be any benefit to a third coat.

After you finish the second coat, water will bead up when your mat's immersed.

Once you've been in the water for a minute or two, the deck will begin to absorb water. The grip remains the same, however.

Don't try this idea unless you already have the feeling that you want more grip out of the canvas deck of your mat. But if you do give it a go, please report your experiences in the comments section. If everyone likes it, I might start doing it on the decks of new 4GF mats before they are sent out.


Surfsister said...

Oh, man!! Valerie and I can attest to the fact that the women in the group don't need anything with more grip. As it turns out, "the girls" (and I don't mean me and Valerie) already grip the deck enough. In fact, once I'm on my mat. I can't move around. I'm totally locked in because of, ahem, the girls.

I'm just sayin'.

misterdirk said...

My "girls" ain't gettin' it done. Actually, the traction feels fine with some of my wetsuits, but with my slick Matuse it's a bit tenuous. I ran this recipe today on two mats, and I'm looking forward to trying it out in the water. Mine didn't go quite all the way to invisible like yours when I used the blow dryer, PG, but it definitely clarified quite a bit.

tuskedbeast said...

I have noticed better grip on my first mat that got wax transferred from my wetsuit's chest area- especially when I took my brand-new never-used standard out for its maiden voyage on a cranking double overhead day. Big difference!! (gulp).

Anonymous said...

as a matter of fact i have just put silicon spray on a canvas deck 4gf because it was too grippy when combined with the suit i wear. at the inflation level i ride at the suit grips the back of the mat and it folds under with a spoon type take off.
warren p

GRAYMAN said...

I made this for PG when the waxing idea was raised:


The two coat thing seems to make a difference and reaches saturation.3 coats seem unnecessary.

I too failed to get it all to go.


pranaglider said...

I can hear my wife now, "What's this surf wax doing in the fridge?!".

PG said...

No worries on the amount of wax melted and soaked into the fabric.

Just get most of it.

Anonymous said...


Which wettie generates so much grip?

Anonymous said...

the velcro wettie!

misterdirk said...

Tried it out today, and it works well -- some added grip, but still easy to slide and adjust my position. Thumbs up, glad I did it : )

Anonymous said...

A 2010 patagonia r2 full suit part of the problem has been that the smooth/textured neoprene extends from the neck to the knee and when you pull on to the mat it grips like Velcro and pulls the end of the mat with it. So spray some silicon on the back 6" of the mat.But when up and riding no wax required.

Warren p

pranaglider said...

Anyone tried this on a blue streak? I know it doesn't have the canvas on top but some wax in the nylon top might work out

PG said...


I have tried it on mats with smooth/thin material on the deck, and there isn't enough texture to generate enough grip.

But, there might be a fabric weight in the mid-range (say 200 to 600 denier) that might work with the soaked-in wax. I have to get some samples and start testing.

pranaglider said...

PG, That what I thought regarding the texture/grip coefficient of the smoother material. The slightly heavier fabrics might be well worth investigating. Great work!

Anonymous said...

well, it doesn't surprise me at all that PG, once again via tedious tinkering, has come up with a great, viable solution for a nagging design/performance issue. albeit a minor one to most,noetheless PG puts his heart and soul into it until aan outcome is reached(be it positive or negative).he's done the same thing while building boards over the decades. looking for that one little thing that might enhance performance, flex,whatever, he will spend hours, if not months, working towards a solution to resolve the issue. not many out there,if any really, like him.
el vaquero

pranaglider said...

I did the wax on the Fatty and it works great. When I got out the water I waxed the standard on the sidewalk and took that out. Two "issues" the additional grip caused some abrasions on the side of my hand (about where the thumbs hit the base / side of my index fingers). No biggie but worth noting. The other item would be that rolling the mat might spread the wax to the bottom of the mat so I would suggest folding the mat. Creates a new market for mat carriers! This was in warm water (60-70F) BTW. Need other reports from tropical and cold water climates.

PG said...


When you waxed the Standard, did you melt it into the fabric? If you left it "raw" on the deck, then that would alter how it felt and performed.

Also, I've had very small bits of wax that had been melted into the deck get loose and attach itself the the othewise clean bottom. But if the was is melted in, errant wax getting on the rest of the mat shouldn't be a problem.


pranaglider said...

PG, I just let it melt in the sun, I didn't wait long enough (drank a cup of coffee and eat a banana) and jumped back into the water. My bad. I'll probably finish the job properly this afternoon. Thinking about the hand abrasion, I intentionally waxed the front corners to increase the grip there. When you are riding shore pound I like to keep a good grip. I agree that possible wax transfer to the bottom isn't a big problem. All said and done when properly applied I like the grip! Thanks