Oct 19, 2017

4GF ''Transition Era'' Mat

Ian J. wrote the other day, and it triggered an interesting memory...

"Hi Paul,

I'm hoping that you and Gloria and the family are doing well. We're getting ready to leave Tasmania and head back to Ireland and add a new addition to the family along the way - exciting times.

I was lucky in the last week to pick up something rather special. It's an older 4GF and though others have thrown in their two-dimes with estimates of its vintage and design characteristics I thought it would be best to go direct and ask the guy who built the thing! Attached are some photos - if there's anything else you'd like to ask me in order to clarify specifics let me know.

What's the story behind this 4GF Surfmat?!

I would ID this mat as a 2007 vintage. This was a fertile window of time, design-wise. 

We had been building essentially the same mat for over 20 plus years...a Standard model, with a gripped deck.
The thin nylon tops we were using were just something we accepted as a necessary evil. They were floppy and unstable, especially at low inflation levels. And the grip was either/or. You either stuck, or you didn't. Takeoffs required a "hop" to pull yourself onto the deck, and if you landed in the wrong spot, it took half the ride to get re-situated.

With the old canvas mats, you had enough grip to stay on, but you could slide forward easily on takeoff. You could also move around on the deck during the ride. The stability of the firmer deck helped with that as well..

Of course, the all-canvas Hodgmans or Merrins were comfortable to be on, but a complete horror to surf by modern standards. What was once state-of-the-art in the 60's and 70-'s was now crap.

Around 2006, at George's urging, I built a couple of nylon mats with an entire sheet of canvas bonded to the thin deck. While they were fun to be on, they were insanely stiff, and performance suffered.

The next step forward was to bond as much canvas to the deck as possible, without interfering with the performance. The result was the run of mats like the one Ian found...

These were good mats...the best we had generated up until that point. The performance was good, and the grip was almost perfect.

Key word: almost.

We started looking around for canvas that was compatible with the nylon I-beam and bottom fabric. After a bit of research, I found what we were looking for, and started a run of mats in early 2009 that continues today. For a short while, we called them the "Black and Blue" series...

Our initial impression was that they were good, but not perfect. Over time, we learned how to manipulate the fabric to gain a bit more grip and enhance performance -- grinding the decks and applying hot wax to be specific.

There is a break-in period with canvas-decked mats. 4GF mats perform better with age, as the fabric gets a touch looser.

What's interesting is that mats that start out a little too stiff, then break-in with use, are better than mats that are loose to begin with. The stiffer mats break-in in the areas of the deck that bend and flex, and thus ''need'' to break in. The passive areas stay firmer. (Should we have called them "Smart Decks"?)

We continue to tweak our mat designs to get the most out of the new deck material. The return to canvas decks also allowed our design range to expand, because larger mats like the XL and UDT were more feasible with a stable deck to hold the rider in place without overly distorting the deck.

Another benefit of canvas is that it can be ridden comfortably with or without a wetsuit...like in the olden days.

And surfing critters appreciate the stability...

Of course, deck configuration is a matter of personal preference among experience mat riders, and reasonable people can and do disagree. This is merely a little essay about the evolution of 4GF design.

In any case, Ian, you have a slice of 4GF history!

Oct 14, 2017

From Adam And The Fourth Gear Frothers

Howdy Paul, hope all is well mate!

Well the froth continues ...have been riding the Lotus and Standard in various reef / point breaks , just loving the feel and slide ! I would definitely lean towards the Lotus as my favorite, such a quick and responsive mat to ride...and power to the canvas deck, the extra surface tension makes a treat to lay on and the beast grip that never wears or needing a top up, 10 quackers in our book!

Below is some vision from a couple of Sundays back, Justin came down for the early ( it was 5.30 and pitch black when we met up) and he had Ron Anderson , father of Chris and founder of Ecto Handplanes with him, it was Ron's first surf on a mat , so after the 100 m paddle out , I did mention to him to never let go and gave him a fe tips on how to duck dive a mat, and to Ron's credit, he caught a few and never let go, was so stoked for him!

The next weekend we all headed down a touch further south and scored some fun little right handers , Neal sat and watched as he had better waves during the week ;) so just Paul, Phil and myself, with a bonus visit from Eric the Seal .

Last Sunday Justin came down again for the early, such a beautiful red pre dawn, the ocean was awashed with a red glow, just makes it so worth while to get your backside out of bed and see it...the waves were just a bonus thrown in for free.

Yesterday was my RDO , so made the most of it and had 2 surfs, Gilligans & Mat Reef , Eric's favorite wave.

One from last year, just Neal and myself, full speed figure eight crossovers....zoom!

And some stills to go with it...


Oct 13, 2017

Custom Rash Guards From Rob

Rob from Jacksonville put together a few custom rashguards...nice!

Oct 6, 2017

More from Adam


Hi Paul

Had some fun little waves this morning with Paul and Phil, so we all got to swap the mats around, really enjoying the Lotus, such a fast mat on the plane, hopefully the Island will be on tomorrow morning, back to work Tuesday for me.

A few moments captured from this morning, that's Phil with a Standard, post surf pig out and coffee, and we walked around after to check out the holiday crowds out at the Island.

More Video Vision below! 



Oct 3, 2017

Notes From The Road

Hey there, 
Still slowly making our way home in our new rig, "Bullwrinkle".  The name an homage to its British Columbia manufacture, and the extra letter due to its owners both being on Medicare. 

I'm not imagining a heap of swell down there, as here in the wild PacNW it's still fairly tame.  There was a nice storm and sizable swell when we were in Tofino, west coast Vancouver Island. MEGA surf scene there.  I dubbed it Encinitas al Norte.  It was rainy, not windy, but plenty disorganized enough to discourage me from a paddle out.  Walking on the super scenic beaches was good enough. 
One spot I'd love to visit when it's on is Jordan River.  Gorgeous glassy clear day when we went through, but sadly only about one foot.  Looks like 3 distinct breaks -- a left reef, a right rocky point, with a sandbar right and left in the middle.  All within paddling distance of one another!  Beautiful setup.  

Just crossed back into CA late this PM, Crescent City, after a lovely drive down Oregon Coast.  Big windsurfing spot, Pistol River, was nukin!!!   One lonely guy was out there blazin.  Not up to that kind of sailing these days, but what an incredible beach that is.  

Love those drive-through camp slots.  This one was perfectly level, both directions.  Park n' Chock!   Hoh Rainforest, Olympic Peninsula.

The title to my next movie.  No, not Evacuation Route!   "Recreation, next left!"

A parting shot...Clearing storm, Lake Quinault.
ETA in SB, Oct 6th...


Oct 2, 2017

From Jeremy

Hi Paul,

4th gear flyer dropping in on my son.

Photo by Paul Brook Jr.


Sep 29, 2017

From Adam


Hi Paul,

Hope all is well mate! Your packaged arrived the other day, many thanks again for your generosity & speedy delivery ......so STOKED!

Finally had a chance this morning to share a few small waves with just Paul and myself, not bad considering its a long weekend, so pretty chuffed to share a few and swap mats , even the wind played ball and didn't blow us out to sea. Love the feel and size of the Lotus, and with these mats being Super Sport models, their broken in and ready to roll straight off the bat.The forecast looks good for tomorrow at our favorite, so hopefully have 4 of us out testing the mats out in larger & longer running waves.....stay tuned to the Bat channel .

A nice comment on-line from Mr Dirk explaining what the Super Sport models..

We noticed that it takes a while to break in a new mat, but when it gets more supple it's more responsive and swift. So PG worked out a way to break-in the material before he builds. His explanation -- "Super Sport versions of the 4GF models are built of pre-broken in fabric...which means they "go" from the first wave. I've done this for several years on my own mats, so I can quickly test prototypes more effectively. We now make them available for customers. Being labor-intensive, they cost $300."

Vale my Omni....from a couple of months ago. We were surfing another one of our favorite reef/cove breaks, whilst doing the walk back round, jump off the point , I decided to film Paul leaping from the rocks, and didn't quite take enough flipper steps back , when a couple of rogue sets washed thru, knocked my flippers from under me, and I came down , bottom of mat first , and rip 2 big holes to the underside of the mat...so these new mats are a welcome addition to my surfing equipment!

Many Thanks again Paul!

Regards from Oz


Sep 28, 2017

From Mike

Hi Paul,

I finally was able to get my Fatty out in some waves over the weekend.... North Carlsbad State Beach.... small and windy and closing out. I had a blast !  Surfline did an article a ways back... "10 Reasons You Should Own A Surf Mat" and reason #1 was FUN CITY! True dat. 
Been surfing since 1964 (Bruce Brown's Mom was my 4th grade teacher growing up in Long Beach) and I can say with the utmost assurance that THE STOKE IS BACK! Thank you so much for making my Fatty Mat.

All The Best, 
Mike J

Sep 27, 2017

From Rob Spielberg


Check out this video I made with Splice:  get.spliceapp.com

Just playing with the GoPro footage I got the other day! Please excuse the look on my face in the intro 😂, there was a brutal glare. I will get better at this with more experience.

Super Stoked,
Rob Pollard

From Ryan

Hey Paul,

It just hooks up on a sweet line here!

I’ve tried some other mats this summer and had a lot of fun on them too, and then went back to the Fatty and the borrowed Lotus I have from Steiny. I have to say your mats seem to do exactly what I want them to do and allow me to be creative and extemporaneous on the wave contorting trying different things etc. without causing me to wipe out or make “mistakes.“

Thanks for changing my life. I’m not exaggerating since getting my first surf mat on June 10 or so I’ve probably been in the water 90 days and caught over 1000 waves in one of the flattest Summers any of us have ever seen. I’ve gone from being a guy who checks it and has fun maybe three times a week and stresses on whether or not I’ll get my wave, the crowd will be too thick, or I’ll be on the right board to, “I’ll check it from the water“. I’ve lost 17 pounds out of sheer exuberance at age 45, we all know how hard that is to do. I love surfing in the way I never have.


Sep 25, 2017

From Rob

Chris got a couple of pics this weekend before he joined me as the Maria swell started to show herself on our breaks! On shore winds, but that didn't stop us from flying!

I also pulled a couple of stills last week from our mat session with 4 mats in the water! I'm still working on the video edit 🐌. Mat surfers are Khristian, Chris, Ryman, and Ryan.

I surfed some of the biggest wave of my life yesterday on the Standard. Chris was with me and we both surfed Standards. I caught a very large set wave outside in sloppy choppy conditions and set a high line almost as soon as I released off the lip! I don't know what gear I was in but I've never felt Speed like that before! She the mat for this mission! Three waves, all bombs, but the last one was a monster! I don't know how big she was exactly but it felt like I sliding down the side of a building! We almost didn't paddle out because we watched a couple of surfers get denied for 30 minutes, but damn am I glad we did! Chris caught three as well, and we paddled in shot out with adrenaline, and pumped for the day!

I plan on taking Tuesday off work with Chris this week to chase Maria swell on home turf!  Man these mat changed my life! Thank you so much! Keep Spreading the Stoke! Lots of Positive Vibes and Healing Energy coming your way!

Super Stoked,
Rob Pollard