Mar 22, 2023

Sh*t Just Got Real


We've been warned about the threat of Artificial Intelligence for at least the past 70 years, probably longer. (Sci Fi aficionados would have a firmer idea about the timeline.) 

It now seems inevitable, leaving the only question: Will is save us or destroy us? Or the former, followed by the latter. In any case, you know the AI creep is real when not once, but twice in one week it came after the mat riding community.

And it case you think this posting is a goof, it isn't...

Yesterday, March 21st, we here at 4th Gear Flyer received this obviously generated comment intended for the Surfmatters comment section. We get lots of junk submissions like, "Love your blog and the great job you're doing. Try Product X to enhance your experience." But this one was amazingly specific, and almost believable.

I popped it over to Mister Dirk, who is literate in all things IT, and this was his reposonse.

I’m going to guess that Walmart has an AI bot that does things like that. Insidious but presumably effective. To post it, or not? Maybe yes, and it could be the fodder for another post and discussion? If you even want to get tangled up in all of that.



Then today, Sammy B of some note in the tech world, passed this along...

I thought you’d get a kick out of this. ChatGPT knows what’s up! Or maybe we’re all doomed with the impending AI takeover.  Fortunately — while I’ve no intention to build a mat, and will leave that to the Expert, ahem…you — it doesn’t seem like AI will mean doom for your job :) Unless that kevlar and carbon model is secretly in the works at 4GF HQ!


When something as inconsequential as mat riding somehow can garner the attention of leading edge tech, however inaccurate, you know the takeover is imminent. Your cue, Rod...

Mar 7, 2023

Winter Wonderland


Last week in Paso Robles!

Feb 25, 2023

Surfmatters Retrospective #4 From The Tusked Beast

 The Tusked Beast, known to the non-matting world as Jonathan Hess, is a ''multi-verse renaissance-person'' of many talents...from professional dog walking to library science to talented wave rider.  Jonathan has generously offered to cull through the past 14 years of Surfmatters and select his favorite postings...and add his personal thoughts. 

Greetings, canvas-clutchers! 

This month’s Retro Surfmatters offering was penned by Paul and posted back in 2009. Jeff C. wrote asking what was Paul’s “best surf-mat trip”, and caught The Maestro in an uncharacteristically garrulous, possibly caffeinated moment. Lots to enjoy here- honestly, it’s exactly what I most want to hear from a fellow mat surfer- and rendered beautifully, as expected… 


Hi Paul,

Have you ever thought about writing about your best surf-mat surf trip? I, for one, would love to hear more about your stealth adventures.

Jeff C.

Hey Jeff,

This is a slam dunk question to answer... but I don't have any photos to illustrate it! (Which is apropos, since no one else was there that day.)

When I woke up one Thanksgiving Day in the mid-80’s, it was threatening rain, and it had been flat for a week. I was fully absorbed in riding the nylon mats at the time, and I was getting in the water 3-5 times a week…so I was in really good shape. But, since it was about to rain and we were in the middle of flat spell, surfing was the last thing on my mind.

Around 8:30 AM friend called me up from the South Bay and said it was closed out in front of his house, and the wind was straight off shore. (Which is often the case in the South Bay on rainy days.)

So, I threw my gear in the car and headed down to Rincon for a look-see. Sure enough, it was 3-4 feet in the cove, but with a faint, rainy-day southeast bump. No one was in the water. Not one person. A few guys hanging out in the lower lot…that was it.

I figured the best call was the Overhead. It can handle south wind better, since it faces a more northwest direction than the local points. I toyed with the idea of going back home and getting my spoon, since Overhead was a great spoon wave. But, I decided to stick with the mat, and headed south.

As I drove past Faria, there was swell showing, featuring a slight south bump that would surely get worse as the day progressed. Still no one out. (It was Thanksgiving day, mind you…but this was the first day of a swell before mass-media surf predictions and instantaneous surf reports.)

The outer reef at Overhead was cracking, as expected, and wind and texture were a lot better. That was the call, but I wanted to go down and check out California Street. The long, long walls there were made-to-order for the "new" mats. Unlimited speed potential when it was over 4 feet.

When I got there, the sets were 6 feet. The wind was from the south, but not ruining it. Like all the other spots that morning, no one was in the water. I figured I'd get out there and snag 2 or 3 walls across the point before the wind destroyed it.

I suited up and walked all the way past the Pipe, towards Hobo Jungle. I wanted to paddle out up top, and drift down with the current, especially since the swell was consistent, and I’d be punching through the white water on a mat.

I slipped out during a lull without even getting my hair wet, and started moving from the Pipe down towards the parking lot. The wind was starting die down, but there was a residual south bump lingering. I picked up a wave in front of the lot, and rode it all the way down to the pier. Great fun. The swell had more depth than was apparent from the beach.

After I pulled out of my first wave, I decided to stay in the water rather than go into the beach and walk back up. I paddled out parallel to the pier, then worked my way back up the point. As I was kicking along, the wind started blowing again, but this time it was from the north/northwest…¾ offshore from behind. The ideal wind direction for California Street. I looked over towards the parking area, and there were still only a handful of cars there, and none of them appeared to be surf cars. It started to dawn on me, this was going to be an epic go out!

It was still overcast, but out towards the islands, there was a large patch of blue sky starting to show. That meant that the bulk of the daylight was coming from the west. It was maybe 10:30 in the morning, when the sun is usually coming from the opposite direction, but the waves were backlit…like morning in Queensland. My favorite lighting to surf!

A handful of other surfers paddled out during the session, but I never came into contact with them. I rode so many wave across the point, it seemed like I spent as much time riding waves as paddling. And I could let waves go that I would usually kill for, just to watch them break, unspoiled. A rare feeling, even back then.

What was the most interesting was being able to take any line I wanted on a wave, with no fear of someone taking off in front of, or behind, me. And no fear of blowing a precious wave, either. When I screwed up, there were plenty more where that one came from!

I tried riding my mat with so little air, my chest was almost touching the bottom skin. And I rode a few waves blown up almost rock solid, just to feel the rail hold in like a fin. Each extreme worked, but in a profoundly different way. What worked the best, overall, was the 90 bend we had been happy with for a year or two. But it was fun to try variations with no pressure (pun intended) to make the most of every wave.

After 4 hours, I finally started to get a cramp in one of my calves, so I reluctantly came in.

What I came away with from this day is that when it comes to riding good waves on a mat, less is more. Less turning, less concentration on myself. I just started to feel my way along, the way you do when you ride a mat in the dark. And, the exact opposite of how one might surf in a modern, competitive/photographic environment.

Later that evening, another friend called and asked if I surfed that day. He said he’d been in the water at Faria all afternoon, and a few guys came and went, but that was it. He had it to himself. He was riding a fin-forward hull, and conveyed a lot of the same observations I had about my day in the water down in Ventura. “I stood there and did nothing on most waves…just flying…it was incredible!”

I looked at the surf the next day, and it was a Victory-At-Sea, post-rain-front blow-through, with 30 knot west winds, and dozens holiday surfers out at every spot. At the time, I certainly appreciated what I had experienced the day before…but not as much as I do now! I don’t think I got in the water again for another week.

I still have the mat I rode that day, BTW. In fact, it was the original "Standard" 4GF shape. Since then, the canvas strips got peeled off, and several other non-skids have been added. It's a damn mess now! The last time I went surfing, a few days after Christmas in 2008, I rode that mat because I knew I wouldn’t be in the water anytime soon, and I wanted to see how it felt after all these years.

The first wave it jumped into second gear before I got to the bottom of a 4 foot wave!

Jan 28, 2023

From Aaron



Hi Paul,

Took me a really long time to grip this. Yikes. Anyhow. Hand cut the stencil on sticker vinyl from Michael’s. 

Those are the soft flex yucca long blades. So a whole new setup for this year. Excited to get in the water with this.
Take care,

Jan 18, 2023

From Max L.

Hi Paul, 

This is on the Canary Islands, a spot just 5 min. down from where I used to live (-: 

Gnarly lava shoreline, and minimal crowds even on the good days!


Jan 14, 2023

Dec 24, 2022

Surfmatters Retrospective #4 From The Tusked Beast

The Tusked Beast, known to the non-matting world as Jonathan Hess, is ''multi-verse renaissance-person'' of many talents...from professional dog walking to library science to talented wave rider.  Jonathan has generously offered to cull through the past 14 years of Surfmatters and select his favorite postings...and add his personal thoughts.


 Happy Hollowdays, Mat Marauders!

This gorgeous candy-colored sequential confection of matting perfection was published January 10th, 2010. Whoever it is has never piped in to “claim” it, which makes it that much sweeter... and that much more "mat", if you know what I mean.

Here’s to happier days for all of us in the water and out of it in 2023!


Our own Mystery Mat Rider greeting the new year!

Dec 14, 2022

From Jack Coleman


The narration for this short is mostly from a video I shot of George in his backyard in 1985.  PG

Dec 13, 2022

From Aaron



I went ahead and took some measurements of the 3 flexes of Yuccas and a couple of pairs of Viper V7s...all fins sized XL:
Viper Vector V7 Plastic      1lb 12.1oz (795 grams) each fin
Viper V7 Rubber                 1lb 15.7oz (898 grams) each fin
Yucca Standard Flex          1lb 11.5oz (780 grams) each fin
Yucca Soft Flex                  1lb 12.4oz (800 grams) each fin
Yucca Ultrasoft                   1lb 11.8oz (788 grams) each fin
Viper V7     18.875" long / center of balance 11.125" from heel
Yucca         16.125" long / center of balance 9" from heel
Viper V7 is 2.75" longer than Yucca
Viper V7 balance point is 2.125" further from heel than Yucca
From what I remember, the Super XL Duck Feet weighed almost 3lbs each.
The Viper Vector is extremely lightweight for its size, but the thermoplastic stretches and deforms in short time making the fins lose performance. Claims of reduced abrasion are exactly opposite real world observations of these fins being the most brutal against bare skin. Must use fin socks with these. The Vector V7's I measured were worn out so likely weigh less now than a new pair. The thermoplastic turns gummy over time. Plan on replacing frequently. These are excellent surf mat flippers when new, best of the long blades due to the weight.
Viper rubber fins are made in USA from Malaysian rubber.
Yuccas are made in Malaysia from Malaysian rubber.
More data to chew on....

Dec 8, 2022

Link From Steve



Gerry Wedd: The Opening WAVE

Stu Nettle picture
Stu Nettle (stunet)
Talking Heads

Gerry Wedd is a six-time state champion of South Australia. Won 'em all on the trot, though that was a while ago now. He's since been a gun for hire at Mambo, back when they were a more daring enterprise, collaborated in all manner of surf art, but is never more at peace than when he's sitting in his studio knuckles deep in supple clay.

Gerry's become "the village potter" at Port Elliot, surfing whenever his timetable or aching body allows. He's also just finished working on a film project, which is somewhat novel for a ceramicist. The film is called WAVE and has been described as "genre-defying", which can itself be defined as any artwork that's difficult to describe, even by the people who created it. But Gerry, despite being in the throes of illness, gives it a red hot go.


Swellnet: G’Day Gerry. How’ve you been?
Gerry Wedd: I wish I could say good, but I'm fucked.

What's going on?
I’ve just had an endless litany of weird injuries and then COVID got me and then I got injured again and now I’ve got a cold that is fucking nuts.

There's something to be said for getting it all over at once; just combining your ailments into one short time frame.
Oh yeah…

So for the next two years you'll be sitting pretty…hopefully.
Let's hope so.

Your new work is the first thing people see when they visit the Art Gallery of South Australia. I know very little about it, so can you describe it to me?
Last year a guy that I used to see in the surf all the time approached me. He's a film producer, he’s done all sorts of work, including working with [Indigenous musician] William Barton. They'd just done a VR project and he said, ‘You know, you do those drawings on your pots, you tell stories, do you want to be involved in developing something?’

I foolishly said yes and then began developing something that has not a lot to do with surfing.

 So what is it?
It’s essentially your classic ecological nightmare. It's a story, eleven minutes long, shown on a surround screen. The story starts with the ancient world, and then it moves quite quickly through an area based upon where I grew up, a little coastal area, and then very quickly goes from [white European] arrival to development to fire and catastrophe. The closing part of it is just this hilarious kind of cartoon wave that looks more like some kind of weird rendered chop.

Is it a morality tale..?
You could look at it that way. It started out being much more didactic and having a lot of people in it, however it just got to the point where, I guess, the viewer is nature. It's nature kind of standing back, watching the environment and things happening very quickly.

A weird thing was the story…the way it changed and unfolded once we started working together.

Yeah, I want to ask you about that because you usually work with ceramics - static, not moving - yet this is something else entirely. How did you adapt to that?
I had to do a lot of drawings. Basically, I kept redrawing the cartoon of this very basic idea, but then trying to imagine it at the VR stage, so that you would be wearing a headset and you would be in the forest and things.

I found it really hard, particularly through the middle of the project because we were doing all these things. I'm the artist, so I was supplying them with all the images and then they would just send me back these short clips of how I imagine it might work, which was challenging, but I got the chance to do some very, very rough kind of animations and stuff, which I'd never done before. I really loved that part of it.

Are you the sort of person who likes to be taken out of your comfort zone?
No, no. I'm a two foot feet beachbreak kind of guy, in every way. But the way people see me, I'm operating out of their comfort zone. But no, actually I'm not risk averse, but this was certainly different to the way I usually work. All of a sudden I was dealing with a team and each of those people are visual artists in some way. That was the good thing about it because normally I'm in complete control of just about every aspect.

Of course.
But it's funny, because years ago when I did work with Mambo, I quickly adapted to my work being completely changed.

You're OK with that...?
Yeah. The art department would say, ‘Yeah, this is fine, but we got to do this and we got to do that.’

The great thing was that, say for example when there's this kind of tsunami thing at the end [of the WAVE film]. I didn't do that. The guy who is the VR expert, we described to him how waves break, so he built this ocean and then built all the wave movements. We tried to get the wave to be somewhere between a film and a cartoon and a wood block print and all those things.

Yeah. When I look at the wave on the screen it's disorienting.
Well you picked it, because water in one part of the wave is moving the wrong direction, so the water's running down the face instead of pulling up from the trough. Both of us, the producer and I, we're both surfers and we thought it's weird, but it's also kind of great. For us, it's suggesting something that's a lot more out of control than what you're used to.

Okay. And now people can see this when they go in through the foyer of the art gallery?
Yeah, it's in the front room. I know lots of surfers have already been and some of them just for a selfie. You've got this kind of giant Hokusai wave behind you.

So they don't have to put on VR headgear?
No. This is called a 360 degree screen.

You are in the middle of the action, so that 180 degrees that you're looking at if you're facing forward, as that's changing, so is everything behind you.

It's never going to translate well to a flat monitor.
Not to a monitor. I found out a couple days ago, it's going to do an East Coast tour*. It'll be on a different kind of screen, which is like, I don't know what circumference or whatever, but it's quite a big screen.

What about real waves? Getting any..?
No, I've been. Fuck, pinched nerves, all kinds of shit. For years I've done rehab on a mat and now, at the moment that's 90% of what I do.

Sorry, when you say mat, do you mean a yoga mat..?
No...ha ha.

Oh, blow up mat. George Greenough.
Yeah, a Fifth Gear Flyer.

OK gotcha. So you're sort of using that more as a necessity to keep you in the water?
Yeah. It's really funny because friends say, ‘Why didn't you get a boogie board? You could do this and this and this’, but they haven't tried them out. There's a peculiar kind of glide that you get on a mat. Only every now and then. I haven't totally worked it out yet.

Do you ever take it out to Knights?
No, ha, then I really would have back injuries. I did that three summers ago and I got flipped three waves in a row. I didn't have the paddle power to kind of knife into it.

I tell you, one really good thing about the mat is it makes shit surf really good.

Because you're down lower to the water surface. Is that it?
A part of it. Also, part of it is your ego goes out the window, and so you're not looking for a wave with a wall to do whatever on, if you know what I mean. It's much more immediate when you take off, you're just dealing with what's right there.

Even if it’s not perfectly shaped?

Talking about ego. I do a lot of bodysurfing and that can be humbling because you’re not even considered part of the pecking order.
Yeah, yeah.

But I find a freedom in that; just do whatever you want. Catch any sort of wave, even closeouts
Yeah. The really funny thing is, in the shitty waves I surf down here, I still have very good knowledge of reading the surf. Even when I go out on the mat and it's quite crowded, I'm still getting most of the best waves.

It's weird, and I call people onto the waves!

"Please, please, take my waves."
And I thought, fuck, when I was younger, everyone wanted to drop in on me.

Maybe they feel sorry for me.

Perhaps. But you've earned your spot up at the top of the totem pole. On your blow up mat.
On my mat.



Dec 6, 2022

Aaron On Yucca Fins


I have been using Yuccas for a while now. I used Churchill in the 80s-90s, hydro tech 2s in the 2000s, blunt cuts for a while, the. Duck feet and eventually settled on Viper 7s for matting.

The Yuccas are most comparable to Vipers. The short blade Yuccas are superbly comfortable. I have all 3 flexes and agree with the video that the ultra soft is the go-to flex for basically everything short of total hammering current and dredging bombs.

If you are like me and wear a fin socks, then go up 1 size. I have size 10.5-11 foot so the XL size is perfect with fin socks.

Churchill fins are asymmetrical and twist my ankles to the point where I can’t walk.

Duck Feet dig in to soft underbelly of my feet and cause plantar fasciitis.

Vipers run off the tops of the toes which causes all sorts of issues.

Yuccas, on the other hand, spread the load across the entire top of the foot and do not dig in anywhere. Like the vipers, the side rails offer tracking that helps with stability and getting around whitewash sections without sliding out. The wild color schemes of the Yuccas are fun and can help see the fins if they rip off in the surf.

If you have to walk over rocks a lot with your fins on, the soft and ultra soft versions have a soft sole that seems to last forever over rocks (like Rincon and El Cap).

Gary and I have done extensive testing with flippers in recent years and have some conclusions.
"Asymetrical" flippers will twist your ankles and cause problems eventually so best to avoid if possible. MS vipers, Hydro Tech 2s, Churchills etc.
Many "boogie board" brand flippers crack and fail surprisingly quick. Buyer beware, even the big name ones go bad fast for some reason. Hubbard, Custom X, etc.

Duck feet are the fastest in smooth open water A-to-B long distance traveling. Hole-shot is okay. The sizes from large on down are light and flexible and more comfortable than the extra large sizes which can cause serious damage to your feet since they are so thick and heavy in the foot pocket. Duck Feet sink like rocks from what I recall. I have not used UDTs so I cannot compare these but they appear to be a stiffer variant of Duck Feet. Duck feet are heavier than other options which on a surf mat can require scooting up to balance the weight of the fins.

Viper long blades have the best hole-shot if you have the strength to drive the huge blade. Travel speed is slower than Duck Feet, probably because the design favors the down-stroke. Vipers ride off the toes and can irritate a high arch. Vipers float but the black color can make them difficult to find in low-light. I use O'Neill "Ninja Boots" as fin socks and the strap on the Viper long blades gets stuck on the heel tread which keeps the fins on my feet in heavy waves and minimizes the need for fin tethers.Vipers are lighter than duck feet but heavier than other options.These hold up very well walking over rocks.

DaFins are less ideal for mats because they clunk together when kicking, have the weakest hole-shot of any fin I have used and they bend without providing measurable thrust when you start to put out power. They are the fastest of the short blades in smooth calm water, though. Punching through heavy soup can be a process because of how the blade bends and absorbs thrust. Not sure about float with these. I don't recommend these for mats unless they are the only fins that don't bother your feet. Smaller riders may have better luck with thrust, I am a large rider and strong kicker and easily overpower these flippers.

Yuccas are just so friendly and have a good hole shot while cruising speed is in the mix. I find that I can "longboard" into waves from out back with these easily. With the soft flex I rode a rip bowl all spring where it required full speed kicking to hold ground against a vicious side-shore current. What really stands out with the Yuccas is the total lack of pressure points. The top of the foot bed just melts around the contours of your feet allowing the force of kicking to distribute evenly over your entire foot. The top of the foot bed is very pliable but still made of thick rubber so you don't lose thrust. They float very well too. The heel straps are wide like Vipers but much softer so they are more likely to come off in heavy waves - solution is use shoe laces / tethers in big waves (which most do anyways). The soft flex and ultrasoft flex hold up very well over rocks. 
 Hope this info is helpful!

Dec 5, 2022

From Charlie and Henry! Henry and I got in a few hours with our new mats yesterday, and we had SO MUCH FUN. A night-and-day difference from the canvas Redback we had been riding, though it's clear that he and I both have a LOT to learn. We do have the bug, though. After his first wave, Henry said, "Pop, that is one of the greatest moments of my life." (Granted, he's eight, but still.)

I have attached some photo evidence of our first outing, though you will see that my action-shot-photography leaves even more to be desired than my mat surfing. The little black blob is Henry :) 

Thank you again for making it all possible, and we will look forward to keeping in touch!
Charlie M

Dec 4, 2022

From Soulofgpl


                                                                     Photo: Sean Manning

  Michael Davidson flying on a Lotus model!

Nov 30, 2022

Surfmatters Retrospective #3 From The Tusked Beast


The Tusked Beast, known to the non-matting world as Jonathan Hess, is ''multi-verse renaissance-person'' of many talents...from professional dog walking to library science to talented wave rider.  Jonathan has generously offered to cull through the past 14 years of Surfmatters and select his favorite postings...and add his personal thoughts.


Hi Surfmatters readers! This time we’re going to revisit two posts from PG he shared during the holidays in 2011/12, which themselves revisited his and Greenough’s filming for Big Wednesday in El Salvador in 1977 (pretty “meta”, huh?).

There’s a lot to appreciate here. The centerpiece is a joyous, dynamic eleven seconds of Paul surfing shot by George which speaks for itself. It’s extra groovy because Paul hadn’t seen it since it was shot; imagine how it must have felt to see it again for him. For sure it inspired a vivid recounting- enjoy!

(From my perspective: as well as the choice footage, it makes me appreciate the various hustles our mat maker had in his checkered career, the cast of characters in his life story, and (he’s going to hate this) the specialness of being able to get his handmade mats directly from him. Nowadays you have a few choices of where to get a mat… but none of them got a side slip panning shot while grinning like a fool, shot by Greenough in 1977.)


I've had this short clip of 35mm Panavision movie film tucked away in a storage bin for the past 34 years, and finally got around to having it transferred to digital. (Well, actually, it was Mr. Dirk who put out all the effort with regard to the transfer!)

Some back story on the shot...

When GG and I were working on Big Wednesday in the Spring of 1977, we needed to do some test shots with the backpack camera that George built for the project. We didn't have time to shake down the rig before leaving for El Salvador, so when we got down there, a bunch of the actors and their surfing-doubles went out at Zunzal to ride waves alongside George...while he tried various focal lengths, aperture settings, FPS speeds, and camera angles. The camera wasn't designed as a point-of-view unit, but more for tracking shots as someone rode the wave ahead of him. (This was new for George, as most of what he had previously shot off his back was POV.)

I had been jockeying the camera rig back and forth to the beach most of that day, and I was pretty tired. The air, water and humidity were all "85." At one point, a wave came along and George shouted "Double!" which was 70s-era mat surfing shorthand for inviting another matter to catch the same wave. We got that one wave together, and then George went back to shooting the serious test footage.

The material shot that day was flown back to Hollywood. (I love saying "Hollywood" like I was a part of the film industry!) After processing, it found its way back to our encampment a few miles north of La Libertad. We watched the footage one evening, and I had completely forgotten about the shot George had taken of me until it popped up on the screen. Culturally speaking, this was near the bottom of the mat riding bell curve, so none of the many surfers in attendance took notice of it...other than Greg MacGillivray, who thought it was neat because I was laughing. (In truth, who doesn't laugh when you ride a wave on a mat with someone else???)

The next day, George snipped the mat riding shot out of the reel of test footage with a pair of scissors, and gave it to me for safe keeping. I brought it home a few months later when we wrapped, and hadn't seen it projected until a few days ago, when Dirk forwarded the digitized version it to me.

I have to say, the first thing that jumped out when I looked at it was my abundance of hair and the lack of body fat! Beyond that, the lively performance of the old Hodgman is what's really neat. I do remember that the surf down there was well suited to those mats...having a strong shoreward push without a lot of curling power. So, the relatively crude shape of the mat was in its ideal element. The current generation of mats would go even better, by a long shot, but it was a lot of fun to ride the last-of-the-Hodgmans in warm water and fun surf conditions. And I think the film clip really conveys that.

The first few frames of the clip are of me sitting with Greg MacGillivray and Lance Carson. They were taken earlier the same day, as I recall.

This is George at Zunzal during the Big Wednesday shoot, riding a pretty big wave with the same backpack camera rig. I shot these photos with a 400mm lens from a lifeguard tower near the water's edge, so that will give you an idea of how far out in the ocean he was.


Along with George Greenough and Bud Browne, Dan "Man Mountain" Merkel did the water photography for Big Wednesday.

Bud Browne with clapperboards and his surf mat.

George Greenough with a water housed Arriflex. When he was caught inside at Sunset -- which happened often -- he would let the camera go and hang onto his mat. He reasoned that it was easier to ride the mat into the shorebreak and retrieve the camera than it was to swim in with the camera and find his mat!

Dan Merkel shooting up at Conception. This is the same mat and camera rig he's duck diving in the shot below...I built the housing while we were in El Savador.

All three water photographers utilized surf mats in their effort...but none more impressively than Dan Merkel. For all you lilly-livered wusses who moan and groan that you can't duck dive your mat in surf over 2 feet, check this out...Merkel takes down a water-housed 35mm camera and a huge, rental-sized raft at Sunset Beach!

Next time you're caught inside on your mat, keep in mind the sage words of Dee from Sunny/Philadelphia: "Sack it up, Bitches!!!"

Seriously, there's a nice interview with Dan Merkel about the changes on the North Shore from a photographer's

Nov 22, 2022

Three Reader Submissions


  Hi Paul,

If I had to pick the thing I like the most about mat riding it would probably be that the rocker fits perfectly in every wave!


Thanks for putting me on the blog. I’m loving the Lotus, it holds in and threads the tube better and doesn’t slide slip on bottom turns as much . Still getting used to it. Here’s a shot with a nice rooster tail! ( On me Standard) 

John L
Pulled from Facebook and sent from my pal Steve Heilig. I think it's Rob Belli. It has that "Where's Waldo" quality that you seem to like (as evidenced by Surfmatters!)
Tusked Beast

Nov 18, 2022

From Fantasy Island


Hi Paul !
Wanted to show you how fast I went on the Standard !

John L

Nov 16, 2022

Some Thoughts On Yucca Fins


I've been using Voit Duck Feet and Voit UDTs since the early 60's, and aside from trying other fin designs now and then, I've always come back to the Voit lineup.

I tried a pair of Yuccas a few years ago. They were the short, "Standard" flex version, and while I liked the overall design and roomy foot pocket, they had a "stubby and stiff" feel to them...and I've always preferred longer, softer fins.

Yucca has some prototypes of a long version of their design, and offered to let me try them. I went with the "Soft" rubber compound. (They also have ''Standard'' and ''Ultra Soft,'' but I went with ''Soft'' to be on the safe side.) 

I usually wear XL Duck Feet with wetsuit boots. (My feet are short and wide, so I need the XL size to suit my fat, ugly feet.) At the behest of the Yucca brain trust, I went with size large Yuccas, and they fit just right while wearing wetties.

My first impression paddling a mat over green water was that the Yuccas were too stiff in the tip area. They didn't have the natural feel that the finely tapered Duck Feet has at trolling speed. But, that sensation went away after I got acclimated to them.

Once I got into the lineup, an overhead set lifted up outside and I had to kick with some force to get over the looming dumpers. The peak paddling speed was faster than my Duck Feet. Noticeably faster. Picking up unbroken waves was easier with Yuccas as well. On that first go out, I caught 2 or 3 waves I woulda missed otherwise. (With 60 years of Duck Feet experience, I have a good feel for what they can and can't do.)

Studying the Yucca design, there are a lot of details that come into play. The ''thrust'' side of the fin (the top) has much deeper rails than Duck Feet, so they focus/convert more water into forward motion. As you can see in this comparison, the top and bottom of the Yuccas are dramatically asymmetrical, while the Duck Feet are 100% symmetrical. 


There was a reason for the symmetrical Duck Feet rib design. They were evolved from the old Voit UDT, which was an ''underwater'' design...meaning both the top and bottom of the fin was intended to propel the swimmer forward as they kicked, fully immersed. (Naval Underwater Demolition Teams didn't surf, they worked exclusively in the depths of the ocean blowing stuff up!) Yuccas are purpose built for surfing. So, like most modern swim fins, the down stroke of the leg does the bulk of the work. 

The weight of the size large, long Yuccas is the same as the XL Duck Feet...about two pounds per fin. However, the Yuccas feel a little heavier when riding a wave on a mat, presumably because the tip area has deeper rails, which shifts the mass of the fin out towards the end. But, those deep rails also help you hold into steeper waves. It's a more-than-fair trade-off, IMO.

The quality of rubber on the Yuccas is excellent, and there's a 'flattish' bottom with an x pattern which combine to give you much better grip walking over slippery rocks. They also sport more effective drainage holes when compared to the outdated Duck Feet approach.


At this point, I'm liking the long Yuccas better than my trusty Duck Feet. It's a more evolved design, with equal or better materials. I'm going to use them exclusively this winter and see how they go over time.

Lots of Yucca tutorial videos here...