Photo: Decker Brandts. Coffee/moral compassing: Maria McCall
Just mention the name Danny ''Ding Dong'' De'lon, and mat surfers the world over will respond, "Isn't that that guy no one ever heard of?"
Yes folks, he is indeed that man.
The annuls of mat riding go back to the beaches of Sydney in the 1930's, yet no matter has ever garnered less attention relative to their commitment than "Dr. Ding," as he is known. If you ran a spread sheet comparing his dawn patrol surf checks to the number of waves actually ridden, your Excel app would literally explode.
The reason is simple...
After 50 years of keen interest in the inflatable art of mat surfing, the Good Doctor has never actually ridden a wave!
Call it bad luck. Call it poor career/hobby/lover choices. Call it what you like. The best way to unravel the mystery behind Dr. Ding is to look straight in the horse's mouth for a one-on-one with the man himself!
SURFMATTERS: How are you, Dr. Ding? I see you have bandages all over on your hands this afternoon.
Dr. DING: Totally! It's been a great day!
SM: Have you been in the water recently?
DD: Nah. Checked it out this AM, but had patches on my 4GF curing, so I passed.
SM: Some say you're the #1 mat patch expert in the world...
DD: 13,873 repairs, and counting.
SM: How did you become so proficient?
DD: It's not about "how," brah. It's about process.
SM: One those "Journey not the Destination" type things?
DD: Well, I never got into Journey, but I liked 'em more than Destiny's Child, that's for sure.
SM: Um, OK...let's move on. You're a fully accredited, cable access acupuncture guru, correct?
DD: Yeah, that's my scene. I heard the calling of Eastern medicine as a young man, touring Southern Asia with my surfmat back in the 70's. I got into reading the Kama Sutra on a bed of nails.
SM: Ouch! Strange combination, especially for a mat surfer
DD: To the Western mind, maybe. I then elevated my consciousness further by skateboarding barefoot across Eastern Europe on a deck of nails.
SM: And that's when you starting having puncture problems with your mat?
DD: Oh, hell no! When I was a kid, my family was constantly on the move along the coast of Alaska. My father was a professional porcupine rustler. We had a Combi Van filed with the little critters, and they were hell on my old Converse-Hodgmans.
SM: So you didn't get in the water much?
DD: Never, actually. My mats were always flat, plus it was so damn cold.
SM: That's when you got in to surfmat repair?
DD: Yeah. Which led to my father's addiction to wetsuit glue. He unintentionally sniffed tons of the stuff.
SM: No wetsuit glue rehab back then?
DD: It was the dark ages. No rehab, no nylon mats, nuthin'.
SM: What about your college days?
DD: I received a Sushi Studies scholarship to University of Texas. Go Longhorns!
SM: Sushi? That couldn't have been good for your mat collection.
DD: Tell me about it. When your dorm room is filled with Ginsu knives, it's hard to keep your mats in working order. Plus my roommate was the Travis County Blindfold Dart Champion. He practiced 24/7 to stay sharp. My mats took a beating, let me tell you.
SM: So at UT, you majored in Sushi, and minored in...what?
DD: Succulent farming. I'm still into it, as a matter of fact. It's hell on my surfmats, but a great hobby in a drought!
SM: Did you get your degree as a Sushi chef?
DD: Nope. I got sidetracked by a beautiful woman who was into Unicorn hunting.
SM: Unicorns? Not good for the mats either, eh?
DD: Well, there's no such thing as a unicorn, dude, so no puncture problems there. But damn, all the best unicorn hunting venues are, like, a thousand miles inland! Plus she was into that whole "Wedding Gown Ax Throwing" thing that was popular back then...
SM: But you stuck with her in spite of the ongoing damage to your surf mats?
DD: It was a committed relationship. How could you dump a woman who wore a wedding dress every day? We still Skype now and then.
SM: I guess the obvious question is, why don't you keep your mats away from your dangerous girlfriends, prickly hobbies, and career as an acupuncturist?
DD: I always keep my mats on hand, so I'm ready for a go out at a moment's notice!
SM: But so far...
DD: Haven't gotten in the water yet, no. But any day now...
SM: Any parting wisdom, Dr. Ding?
DD: Like my uncle used to tell me, "Dress sharp, look sharp!"