Jun 22, 2016

Two From Jonathan ...

Note: The "Super Sport" mats that Jonathan refers to below are stock 4GF models that have been pre-softened prior to construction, and have a very slight amount of reverse rocker built into them as well. This is a design thread that I've been working on for a year or two, and is available on special order. Email us for more details...



Hi Paul,

How are you? Looks like (gleaned from Surfmatters) you went on a trip? Hope it was good, that you are good, family is good, 4th Gear is pumping, Spring is kind, Trump loses ignominiously... all that, sincerely.

I'm well. Only three weeks left for me here. I recently had a chance to get out of Raglan and housesit for some friends about 4 hours south of Raglan. It's a fine surf zone, 270 degrees of coastline fanning a magnificent 2,500m conical volcano. Dozens of good-quality lava reefs and points, lots of creek and rivermouths, and plenty of options to catch a good wind direction. It's a pretty compact geography too, maybe... I dunno, an hour from the first viable surf zone to the last? After bussing down, my hosts gave me use of their car, which was fantastic, although my favorite little cluster of spots was only a bike ride away from their house. There was even a solid swell and high pressure predicted, so I had high hopes.

What a great time. I had a handful of fun surfs in five days before the conditions went to custard. I'd brought the Liddle and the Super Sport Standard. I ended up using the mat most of the time.

Surf 1 was at a right point (amidst a complex of other lefts and rights, with still more setups visible in the distance). It was a Saturday, it was school holidays, and even still, only 5 teenagers sharing good chest-to-slightly overhead offshore waves (that's the difference between the rest of New Zealand and Raglan right there!) It's a great mat wave, long, with fast, wall-y sections going into flatter sections, then back into a fast wall again- don't you just love "imperfect" point waves on a mat?

The Standard ripped. The wave demanded constant repositioning in a way that the machine waves at Raglan didn't, and the SS went wherever I wanted it to- high line, cutback. I guess I've run out of new insights from what I've already said, but to repeat: compared to the regular Standard, the SS doesn't sideslip in crucial sections down the line, it responds more decisively to turn implementation, so I was able just that more effortlessly to go where I needed to go to make the wave.

Two things stood out to me this session: On my first wave I was outside and in full view of all the kids. For better of worse, you want to do well your first wave to establish your competency and place in the lineup. Without a warmup, I caught an outside set wave and did a half-drop into a top turn, came off the top then down into the flats then back to the top, and so on past the watching kids. The SS enabled that showiness, no doubt.

The other thing I noticed this session is that while the Super Sport has a much higher "hold threshold" before it breaks rail trim to go into a side slip (or a "trimming side slip") than the regular Standard, the way I'm riding, it does go into a sideslip cutting back quite easily. I guess I'm just riding flatter then, less angled on the rail, air more evenly distributed, inside rail less full.

On the topic, side slipping is something that I really want to explore with the SS mats. The extra hold was the first thing I noticed with the Super Sport, I've been super-stoked on the hold in crucial sections, but...I 'm finding I kind of miss the ease with which the regular mats broke into sideslip. Just need to find the right technique; I'd rather have the hold than not have it. I think the key is flattening out, and that I'm breaking loose cutting back suggests it's there to be found....

The swell came down the next day, and I took the mat out to a little secret beach break that picked up what swell was left. The peak I chose was about chest high, it was a windswell and the little waves had a variety of speed pockets and reform zones, requiring quick choices to get the most out of the ride. The extra-responsive SS was a blast. The rides were like little Rubic's Cubes, puzzles to solve : ) Really fun session, alone on a lonely beautiful beach (well, I had the dog I was sitting with me).

Late afternoon the next day, I caught the beginning of the new swell at one of the spots near my house. Each set was bigger than the last- it went up from chest high to well overhead in less than an hour. Oh boy....

The next morning it was BIG. I went with a friend to a left point that is somewhat fickle; it can be a longer ride than Raglan's points when it's on. This day it was imperfect, most waves were broken into two big sections, with some connecting through and some maxing out and pushing through  both. My macho pal who errs on the side of underestimating was calling the biggest set waves 6-7 foot, meaning 12-14 foot! But there were lulls where it was possible to paddle out dry-haired, it was sunny, the water was gorgeous, blue and glassy, and many of the waves were perfect (and smaller non-bomb sets were a friendly 8 foot). I initially paddled out on the Liddle, more because I'd fantasised about this spot on that board than it seemed like a good choice, but after a few waves realised, naw! Went in and got the mat.

Well, WOW! This was a first for me. A few impressions. Maybe stupidly, I never felt outgunned. Because the setup included an indicator outer point and a blue-water zone to the right, I felt pretty confident. I did get caught inside one by a massive surprise bomb set, but I just held on with my whole body and was able to roll it, and wasn't really badly worked or mentally freaked. In fact, this was the first time I've handled rolling waves (and fucking 10-foot whitewashes!) doing the whole-body bear hug that I've read about, and it was the ticket this day, I just immediately knew it (I've always opted to hold one or both corners and let the mat go turtle, my body straight down).

No huge problem getting into the waves. It was glassy, and the waves rose in a friendly, ramp-y way, not jacking up. I swim into waves on the mat, mat on one arm ahead of me, which allows early entry. The two zones were pretty concentrated and distinct, so positioning wasn't an issue, or too heavy.

MAN!!! The drops! I kept, or it felt like I kept, getting sucked up to the very top of a huge ski jump, dangling for a second, then whooooooooooshing  on down! On some of the first few I had so much forward speed turning was an issue : 0 At least on one, I just realised "fuck it" and had to keep going straight (and discovered how big it really was, rolling huge whitewater walls). Each wave was followed by a 15 minute paddle back out (half hour if I got pushed all the way in, which happened twice)- the sweep down the point was intense. I had a lot of time to think about what to do differently... I needed to angle left on the drop. And in fact, that worked- the mat freakin' handled that line, on (for me) huge waves, at eyeball-peeling speed. I sure felt small though, and splayed out, not really sure what to do with my limbs going that fast with so much face. Survival stance, haha!

So the takeaway from that session is that rolling using the whole-body hug works, it's hard as hell to "bottom turn" after a big drop straight down; need to angle a bit. And the mat HANDLED it, it WORKED, and it was FUN!!!!!

So- thank you for giving me that experience, and all the others!



Hi Paul,

Been back from NZ for a few weeks now. I got a job the second day back, produce at a health food store, 4AM wakeup time, so it's been quite a trip getting accustomed to that. One of the nice things is it leaves a fair bit of time to surf, and there's been those nice south swells the last few weeks. Had some fun sessions at Steiny's (or The Lane, to some people). Kind of amazingly, it's been LESS crowded than freakin' Raglan, which says more about the state of poor Raglan than anything else.... I'd say, to sum up the surfing side of my six months in Raglan, it was rather sobering. I knew the high season would be packed, but previous years the mobs tapered off around March. This year that never happened. I had very few sessions that weren't marred by overcrowding. My hopes of really "studying" the Super Sport mats in those fine waves were pretty compromised, and if I ever make it back there, I'd definitely choose another place to visit, for surfing at least.

Raglan bears watching though.... Folks there are recognizing that over-tourism is threatening to ruin the very qualities that draw people in the first place. NZ legally allows "freedom camping" which is pretty much what it sounds like, and more tourists are taking advantage of it than ever. The upside is a degree of revenue for businesses. The downsides are packs of people in the faces of the majority of residents who don't profit from their dollars, hanging out, cooking meals and lounging right there on the town's main street or on residential streets, leaving trash and (ugh) used toilet paper in barely-hidden places... and yep, crowding out the surf.

So the people have been holding a series of community meetings, to isolate the issues and try to figure out strategies. There's also been talk of attempting to regulate the numbers of surfers at Manu Bay. If they can figure out a feasible way, it'll be a true precedent for the modern surfing world.

In the meanwhile, I figured out a way to personally handle my own mood in the water. Ever notice how a dog wags it's tail when it's just walking along? Pure joy-de-vivre. I picture I have a wagging tail, like a dog's. It's been working for me- for real! I am a serious animal lover, so no illusions that I've hit upon The Answer, but it might work for others that love dogs : )

Anyway, this is the coda for my trip. Now that I have the means, I'm attaching some photos.

First is Hillbilly Hill, Mike's land, with my shed, Possum's bus and Mike's place bus at the top. Over the crest is Macho Phil and family's land (Mike and Phil own the parcel together).

Next, the view from Mike's, and my shed. Looking north to miles of empty coast.
Then a trio of insect pics- a preying mantis on a flex fin, a fucking big spider (guitar pic for scale), and a stick insect, sunnies for scale. My rule of thumb for NZ (compared to the benign SF equivalent situation): if it feels like something is crawling on you, there is something crawling on you.

A shot of the eccentric little bookstore I worked in, and one of the titles we featured.

Three shots from the retro contest I entered. If you zero in on the second one, there I am, exhibiting winning form, haha.
Possum's dog, Buddy. Possum forbid me from playing "fetch" with Buddy, because he would get "too riled up". Poor Buddy, only a year old- hence the plaintive look!

Jed, the dog I sat on my trip south. Fantastic dog, whip-smart, sweet, obedient and perfect in every way! And a great surf dog- he would wait patiently on the rocks while you were out, no problem. Probably a chick magnet too, but I never ran across any chicks....

Next shot is the nice righthander. Shift change- we six went in, then three paddled out. What a contrast with Raglan!

Next two are the left point on the big day I wrote about. Not very impressive, I'm afraid- you'd have to know that view to know how big that is. The second shot is the inside, double overhead after tapering down.

And somewhere in this order is me riding a blustery day at Whale Bay on the Liddle.

OK, enough. I want to thank you again for the chance to ride the Super Sport mats. I hope my feedback has been of some help! If nothing else, a lot of people (...) got to see one in action. Funnily enough, regarding the difference in controlled side slip ability (less than the Standard imo), I've been having no trouble doing that move in the surf at Steamer lane these last few weeks. Go figure. If I realize anything new (and I'll keep my antennae open to it), I'll be sure to write. As always, so so grateful for your surfcraft, sincerely.

Best Regards,


Anonymous said...

Great Posts as always, oh how i miss New Zealand and oddly enough Steamer Lane. hope to see more of your posts!
Hoki Poki ice cream Lives !!!

Benoit said...

Hi, I live in France, near by the south west coast. I used to ride bodyboards and plywood paipos in small waves. Recently I bought a surf mat, being interested in alternative surfcrafts. Almost nobody ride surf mats here, a very few people only know what it is. My first sessions were terrible, now it is getting better and better session after session. I really appreciate the safety in crowded peaks, especially in the summer. This safety advantage makes me going into waves bigger than I surfed before. A funny thing is surfers in the water thinking you are a lost tourist on your inflatable mat. So, they don't even think that you will catch waves, when you do, and succeed, they are really surprised. The mat is a great waves vehicule, way harder than bodyboard to master, but also way more rewarding when you start to get the hand of it.

Matt said...

Jonathan, thanks for sharing your impressions of the Standard SS. There is not much discussion of this mat yet on the internet, as it is fairly new on and not a "standard" option on the 4GF website.

I recently received a Standard SS, or SSS as I like to think of it. I can relate to much of what you wrote in your first post. This mat definitely holds well. I have only spent two sessions on mine, both in pretty junky surf, maybe a chest high peak if I was lucky. First day was at a beach break (Sands) and most rides were pretty short due to waves closing out. But even on the short rides i noticed how well the mat held the wave. I even got barreled in one wave, albeit a close out barrel. For me that is really rare.

But the next session around the other side of the point a point break called Deveraux, I really saw the potential of the mat. I recall on one ride in the particular, that I felt like I was riding a skateboard, not a surf mat. Then a realized, no, not a skateboard, but a surf board. It has been a few years now since I stand up surfed, but the feeling riding the SSS was very similar, even lying down. I am so looking forward to getting this mat in some clean shoulder high waves to see what it can do. I am also looking forward to trying it in the knee high waves I sometimes ride here in Santa Barbara, as rumor has it it takes small waves rather well also.