(This is a pile of prototypes for a 4GF model that never made the cut...)
4th Gear Flyer passed a milestone of sorts over Easter
Weekend…we sold our 4000th mat since 1984. (Gloria’s a fastidious
record keeper.) Add to that the 800+ prototypes and personal mats I’ve made
since 1983, and we’re approaching the 5000 mark!
From the very beginning, I've taken a methodical approach to mat
design. Part of the reason was the influence of George Greenough and Greg Liddle – two
friends who each had an “engineering” perspective on board building -- and part of it was the nature of mat construction itself.
spite of the fact that mats are made up of curved tubes when inflated, the “build
parts” are all straight, square, and thus easily calibrated. And while it’s virtually
impossible to handshape two identical surfboards, it’s relatively easy to build
two identical mats. All the parts can be marked out in the style of a draftsman,
then assembled and welded with great consistency. This means that it’s easy to
replicate a good mat over and over again. Having
the capacity to make surfing vehicles accurately was, and is, a great boon to mat
Of course, the down side of having complete control over the
construction of a mat is that “happy mistakes” generally don’t happen. With hand
shaped, hand glassed surfboards, there are so many natural variations from
board to board that magic boards often appear without intention...and something new is learned from them. But when building a mat? That just doesn’t happen. You have to
deliberately make changes from mat-to-mat to create variations. That’s why a
methodical approach is natural.
When I was working out
the final details of the Tracker Roundtail in the summer of 2010, I had the
general design in place after about a dozen prototypes…but the height of the two
small I-Beams hadn’t been fully sorted. So I built six more prototypes with an I-Beam
height variation of 1/8” from mat to mat…starting with what I thought would be
too tall to what I thought would be too small. After sitting in dry dock for a
week or so, the surf came up and I rode all 6 prototypes on the same afternoon…making
mental notes after every few waves. One I-Beam height emerged as being
distinctly better. I ran the same test with those 6 mats early the next morning,
and drew the same conclusion. Since the best I-Beam height for the Tracker was in
the middle of the range I tested, I knew I’d found the right one.
Maybe the oddest thing about design is that a "magic mat" invariably
comes from a tedious process of tinkering. There’s no artistic inspiration -- as there often is with board shaping -- since mats tend to look the same even when they perform differently.
So it comes down to taking the time (and spending the money) to build and test all the options to figure out what
it takes to birth a magic mat. Not fun. Not pretty. But a good result.
With so many mats under the 4th Gear Flyer belt,
I thought this might be a good time to go through some of the specific design variations that have been tested
over the years. I'll post something on the subject once or twice a week for the next month or so!
I hope your time away was fun. I am absolutely loving the Lotus 7 mat. I had her out in some big barreling waves at a place we call Urchin Reef. So much fun. Fast and maneuverable. I had to do some serious duck dives too. No problem at all. Here is a picture of Johnny Tofu and myself on our 4GF’s in full mat relax position between sets at our local.
I guess we've cracked the magic "200 follower" number. I think Instagram gives you a million dollars or a free trip to Morocco or something for this particular threshold. I'll have to ask Surf Sister, who's our Instagram honcho.
The photos she's publishing aren't exactly what I would pick, but since I get to post all the shots on Surfmatters, this changes things up. The shots themselves have to be square, or almost square, to work on Instagram, so the format is different than the overall trend toward wide-width imagery in our culture. At first it kind of bugged me, but seeing familiar photos cropped differently is actually kind of interesting.
Honestly, I don't have a feel for the appeal of Instagram -- I still use a flip-phone -- so I'm letting Surf Sister run with it and see what happens.
Oh...I'm back from Oregon, so orders and inquires will get a quick response!
We began to get bored after a few days of surfing rights so we headed to fickle point break that runs into a bay. Here you could take off set up your fall line and get slotted the whole way down the point.
Just wanted to let you know that I had an absolute blast on my Fatty in Nicaragua. I was at Solid Surf in El Transito. I still have a lot to learn about riding the mat, but I do know it is a ton of fun.
Arrived home on the weekend safe and sound. The surf was pumping yesterday so what a great homecoming.
When we were in the islands our main focus was searching and surfing, not so much on the photography side of things. We were lucky however that our boat captain would snap a few if our anchorage was in view of the waves, of which often it was not. Old mate did a pretty good job considering how difficult it is.
Here is a sample of a right hander we found that the anchorage provided a good look at the wave.