...but there was a lot of good feedback from yesterday's post about my first go out on the tapered prototype mat. I'm surprised how many people were interested! After I up-loaded the post last night, I had misgivings...thinking that maybe I shouldn't have bothered with it. Glad I did now.
I did hold back one section of the "Day 6" post, and it was in regard to the subtle, but undeniable, connection between the new, wide-tailed prototype mat and the classic "guitar pick" paipo board.
One afternoon back in 1982, George and I went for a surf with Sean Ross out at Queens Surf in Waikiki, and I got some time in on a Paul Lindbergh HPD paipo board. The super wide tail really bugged me at first, but Sean showed me how to move around on the tail. George rode it for a couple of waves, and of course figured it out immediately. One thing that really jumped out at me was the planing ability of the wide tail.
I'd never given any thought to applying that kind of configuration to a mat, for a number of reasons...until Saturday when I rode the tapered prototype backwards. I immediately flashed back to riding Sean's paipo at Waikiki that afternoon 30 years ago. The feeling was very similar, even though the nose/tail width variation was only 1" on my prototype. (Since mats are infinitely softer than paipos, there's no way you could handle a 30" wide tail on a mat!) And that 1" felt really radical in the water. I seriously doubt that a mat rider could hanlde much more variation, and as I surmised yesterday, 1/2" or 1/4" might be better numbers.
One thing a classic Paipo and the tapered mat prototype have in common is that even though they have wider tails than noses, the center section is dead straight...as opposed to a more thruster-like concept of a curvy pig shape. This is critical, I think, because when you set the rail line into the face of the wave, there's no drag. You're still driving a pure, straight line through the water.
As for the fanned-outward I-Beam grooves of the new mat, they kind of remind me of thruster rail fins being toed in. Not sure if there is any relationship in practice, but knowing how badly the mat rode with the grooves toed inward (when the mat was ridden forwards) maybe that's part of why the mat worked well going backwards. The grooves aren't parallel to the outer pontoons, BTW. The outer pontoons are at a slightly sharper angle.
I also wanted to talk a little bit about how important tail drift is to speed...not just in mats, but surfboards as well. Back in the 70's Larry Bertleman was riding swallow tails with a single fin set well forward in the box...similar to a Greg Liddle hull fin arrangement.
If you click the "Watch Trailer" link on this website, you can see how Bertleman's tail momentarily breaks loose every few seconds as he ducks into tubes, and the speed he achieves in trim. It's very similar to how mats reach their peak speed. When a mat's tail won't break out, that magic speed is lost.
So, it's a tricky balance between hold and drift that mat design has to achieve...and the individual mat rider has to fine-tune that balance in the water via his or her inflation setting. Ridden forward, the new tapered mat ridden had none of that drift...while the backward incarnation had tons of it. The question remains how controllable the width in the back will be. I surfed it in super clean, offshore waves, and it was easy to control it with my inside hip and fins. In lesser surf, who knows?
But, I'm optimistic there will be something good come from this latest design endeavor. It's raining here now, so probably no surfing for a couple of days. We'll know more by the end of the week.