Paul here are my impressions of the mat so far...
I have been in the water for all of my 65yrs on this planet. I have been riding waves for as long as I can remember. I was lucky enough to make a living shaping surfboards for some pretty big names. I have pretty much made all my surf vehicles from wood "Paipo" stuff as a kid to my current surfboards. The mat is the first surf thing I have not been involved in making in decades.
At first the mat and I were a mystery to each other. I am used to bigger surfboards and I am up out of the water. The mat is IN the water almost part of the water. Just being on it was kind of like trying to sit on a marshmallow. I had not used my legs for propulsion in a long time and swim fins where a forgotten memory. I would go out with a simple task just get out and TRY to catch a few waves. I went for slow progress, some days I would struggle to get what I make that "I" wanted from the mat. The mat would resist me and do what "it" wanted. But somehow we would come together and find at least one "nugget" it was a taste, a tease, but enough to make me stay interested.
The learning curve is well documented and I heard from more than one surfer that they had tried a mat and gave up after a couple times. These were usually surfers who had skipped the swim, bodysurf, old style mats or even Boogie boards and went straight to surfboards. They were not very good surfers and did not have the other skills to put into their mat experience. The mat draws on ALL those ocean experiences one of the main reasons it was starting to hook me. The other is that where I live in So California the surf areas are small and the number of "surfers" on real surfboards sponge boards SUPs longboards shortboards and surf schools dumped into one area just makes it that much harder to just "catch a few" was impacting my lifestyle.
Now I get to "kick" my way out to some of the better peaks and have the big red trucks tell everybody on a surfboard to leave the area. I get Government assistance to my madness. I am a big guy who has a very intimidating "crowd face", so I have been told , and to see me walking down the beach with a pool toy I am sure has some wondering, laughing??? I am getting the last laugh some of the better waves all to myself.
The mat has been an experience like no other. At first I tried to muscle it, it don't like that. There is a balance of strength finesse experience that has to be learned. Yes you can just go out and "ride" waves straight to the beach and if that's all you want from it that part is easy. I want more from it, I want to SURF it like I know waves can be surfed. I have taken it out in waist high stuff to full on almost makeable closeouts. I have been challenging it AND it me, I am getting too old to take the punishment of a closing out beach break trying to hold on to a uncooperative bag of air, but I have done it.
There is a reward appearing at the end of the tunnel. The mat and I are starting to understand each other. It senses when I need it to respond. Whether it is getting into the wave at just the right moment to make it. Or when I am heading out and see a set coming it seems to respond with me to get us out there. We are in sync when I have to duck dive, not something I do on my bigger surfboards, as we head under the wave then the mat propels me to the surface. We are becoming one we are in unison we are surfing. There is a zen to it, I need the mat and the mat needs me. We need each other. Without my breaths the mat does not exist. Without the mat I am just body surfing, Or something like that.
Paul, I am definitely having fun and am getting ready to take the mat to my secret research proving grounds in South America. Every year I take one of my current experimental surfboards to refine". This year I think I will be just taking the mat. I already have enough surfboards down there. The Idea of having just a rolled up mat and a pair of fins to deal with on the airplanes and buses is a bonus.
Albert "ACE" Elliottacesurfboards.com
There is more to the story and how the Mats inflated characteristics translate to how my solid boards approach a wave. Years ago Carl Ekstrom and I shared the same shop and we always had a running BS session about board designs. One day Carl said that he liked boards that looked "inflated" that sparked something that became a major part of my surfboard design journey. It is interesting when I get back on "solid" boards that the lines my softer railed rounder bottomed boards draw are very similar to what the mat wants to track.