Mar 22, 2012

"Backside" on a mat? How does that work?

The concept of having a frontside and backside on mats (or body boards or kneeboards) seems absurd to most surfers. After all, you're positioned symmetrically on the craft. So what's the difference between going right or going left?

Lots, IMO...

Whether it be from habit (going in one direction most of the time) or physical tendencies (either your right or left arm/leg dominate your body) most mat surfers have a preference going right or left.

For me, the difference really amounts to being able to "feel" while going frontside, as opposed to having to "think" going backside. Frontside is more instinctive, so it allows me to be more sensitive to the wave shape and texture.

Having a frontside on a mat can also be a boon to surfers who are, say, goofy foots standing up, but like to go right on a mat. This can open up a whole new world of wave riding for them. And even if going right isn't their frontside on a mat, if they go right long enough, it eventually becomes their frontside.

There was a guy who used to ride a mat in Santa Barbara who fits this description. His name was George, from my recollection. A goofy foot on a board, and a "left-matter" as well in the beginning, he just kept going right until it felt correct to him. I lost track of him some years back, when he moved to Australia full time.

But I digress...

I actually think that going backside on a surfboard is easier than going backside on a mat, since you use the same rear foot turn on a board, regardless of which direction you go. On a mat, you have to use the left side of your body to go left effectively, or the right side of your body to go right. This demands a complete physical and mental least for me.

Rather than drone on, I'll cut to the chase. If you are inclined, please answer this battery of questions in the comments section at your leisure:

Do you have a frontside or backside riding a mat?

If so, which direction do you prefer on a mat?

Is frontside on a mat also frontside on a board for you?

If not, does that contrast work in your favor? (IE Are you able to ride more spots effectively as a result?)

What percentage of the time do you ride frontside? (For example, I go frontside 99% of the time.)

Is your preference strong enough to dissuade you from surfing a spot that goes the other way?

Do you think your preference is physical in nature, or the result of the surfing environment you developed in?

If you have a distinct frontside, how interested are you in learning how to go "backside" on a mat?

OK, that's all I can come up with for the moment. Answer if and when you feel up to it. I for one will be very interested in your comments!


Piskian said...

I'm ambidextrous and ambifootstrous(all gingers are),so that may account for my disbelief!That photo's closer to the truth than you know...

Mateo said...

I like backside surfing the most on boogie and kneelo..(goofy knees) but the mat and paipos are better frontside I think... Im not comfortable riding bigger waves going left on the boogie but I am on the mat!

My friend Josh is just the opposite....

Anonymous said...

I like riding outside, unless its' a barrel then its' inside dude, unless it's an el rollo, then I prefer upside followed by downside. Or if I'm side slipping backside.

So many choices so few words. Any activity that has sliding in it is always good why choose sides? Guerdon.

Max said...

For me matting is a way to transcend the angular complexities of board riding, plus it's both irregular and goofy, which makes for freedom and fun. To answer the questions, I'd have to say that when my personal hovercraft gets on plane I feel like a flying squirrel, so any sensations of sidedness are overcome by spontaneous forward fidgets with accompanying improvisational ambidextrous chooglin...

tomas said...

Piskian has it right me thinks. Kind of absurd to have a frontside and backside on the mat. I suppose I'm destined to that POV due to so many years standing up while surfing. Now, if someone were to send me back to Peru for a month long, left only exile I'm sure I could rearrange my grey matter to accept this behavior as normal! My personal preferences right or left are purely due to local conditions. Our local breaks revolve around piers or jetties with a predominantly S. wind. We seek out a protective N. facing side of either structure to block the wind and this normally will be a righthander. Seasonally this will reverse itself and winter may provide well groomed lefts. cheers!

Anonymous said...

regular foot surfer who prefers going left on a mat and/or body surfing.i find it easier to "backside" on my mat than frontside. same when bodysurfing.

el vaquero

Anonymous said...

Hi Paul,

Over the last few years I've given this some thought as well. Back in the days when I was a standup surfer, before the kneeboard and way before the mat, I was a regular footed surfer. I always tried to surf a spot that had at least a good amount of rights.

Then I moved south on the island and my home break became one that is a predominant left so it was nearly always backside. Even after I started kneeboarding it still felt like I was going backside.

After a few years on the mat of mostly surfing lefts at this break, it became the natural way to go. Now when I go to a break that is a right I'm not nearly as proficient, it takes me a bit longer to pull up into the face and its much harder to find the line that keeps me in the barrel.

Hope that answers your question.

Water here is up to 46 degrees and the air temp has nearly made it to 80 a few times. Way too early for winter to be over but I'm glad to be back in the water.

Rich (aka, matman)