Oct 30, 2017

From John

(This comment just came in, pursuant to a posting on Surfmatters from December, 2011...)

The "Vietnam era" photo above is mine, taken at the U.S. Naval School for Underwater Swimmers, Key West, Florida in 1967. The divers pictured are in fact USAF Pararescue trainees, not Navy. The fins were AMF Voit Duck Feet fins, issued to us.

I have used, and still have, two pair of the original Swimaster Duck Feet fins, which are made of natural gum rubber, and are still very nice and flexible more than fifty years later.

John C. Ratliff

John's work today...

Oct 28, 2017

Team Lotus

Hi Paul,
I saw this in Carmel today on an old Ford pickup. He has the race car also!
Mike Worcester
PS   Still loving my Lotus, so much fun!

Oct 26, 2017

Did You Bring The Mats ???

The Fatty and Standard ended up under my 8 year old daughter and her friend!  
Went again to the beach the next day just to get wet and her friend said, “Did you bring the mats!?”

I think they liked it!


Oct 24, 2017

Sunday Fun


I had a blast with Chris and Ryan last Sunday on a pair of Standard SS mats and a UDT SS!  Party waves have to be my favorite benefit of mat surfing! The Standard SS has become my go to mat in Nor’Easter conditions. Chris caught a couple of pics in the beginning of the session.

The Standard SS...I was amazed at the speed this mat siphoned from the wave, I wasn’t sure how she would go in these smaller and softer conditions, but DAMN! The Standard SS blew me away today, definitely the most fun I’ve had in smaller waves! For a serious mat surfer this baby is a wave skeleton key, it’s got me Stoked to the Max after that session! I got into waves early and was able to beat sections I normally wouldn’t make on other mats. The speed is addictive....I said one more wave for an hour and a half 😂🤣. Thanks for making these amazing vehicles of Joy! Yeeeewwwwww!
Keep Spreading the Stoke! Positive Vibes and Healing Energy coming your way!

Super Stoked,
Rob Pollard

Oct 22, 2017

In Your Face, Aussie Wankers !!!

The SCUMM crowd aren't the only matters who know how to have fun!

PG and Mister Dirk, perfect rights, two guys out...

  These chips are for you, Eric!  #ericwouldgo

The WAKOFF boys (Western Alliance of Kinetic-Optimist Fun Freaks) crack the first west swell of Fall 2017...followed by a world class scarf at a local Santa Barbara eatery...followed by some good natured humor. (At least 'Mericuns know how to tell the octopus joke properly...we have artificial intelligence to tell our octopus jokes for us!)

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 (IMO). 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 "SmartDecks"?)

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.