Sep 24, 2008

Mad Matters?

I grew up riding "rafts" in the sixties. During the seventies, canvas airmats faded out. Then, in the eighties, lightweight nylon mats came in! I thought they were the coolest thing ever. Very few people got what I was doing. Some surfers thought I was mad as a hatter... A mad matter... Mat Max! Maybe I was, getting ragdolled by shorebreak on an inflatable. But not to worry, I loved the feeling of surfing on air and knew exactly what I was up to.

Soon, a tiny core group of us got into playing surfing bumper cars, immensely enjoying our rediscovery of rafting. "Real surfers" shook their heads. Some even scoffed. We just laughed politely and carried on... Those days are long gone, and now I'm in New Zealand, where people can more easily get their head around a grown man riding a "lilo". I'm usually out there all alone on my floatie, sometimes sharing the lineup with orcas and penguins. And it's better than ever. The technology has really progressed, with comfortable traction decks, fully-developed designs and easy purchasability. I'm loving modern mat riding. Now, if only there were NZ matters to do go-behinds and slingshots and crossovers with... Give it time.

More people are getting it. There's a minor mat movement in progress. ASP Pros are freesurfing on mats. Surfmat websites and video clips are popping up on the net. Mat riding is generally well regarded in Australia (at least that's been my experience). Surfmatting is turning out to be not so mad after all.

A complete matting kit fits in a daypack. The whole operation is simple, small, friendly and huge fun. Anyone can buy top-quality mats for resonable prices through the internet, and have them shipped anywhere in the world in days.

Part of the reason for this blog is to turn people onto the joys surfmatting. More matters would be a good thing, as we are mostly empathetic types, with not all that much ego. Crowding is a non-issue, because on surfmats, it's way more fun to share waves than to go it alone. The zen focus inspired by mat surfing is a pure lighthearted meditation. I would tend to doubt that there is such person as a really serious matter.

As for matting being a form of surf madess, the classic Jimmy Buffet lyric sums it up best, "If we weren't crazy, we'd all go insane." Maybe this lightweight, sociable, cheap and cheerful ethic is actually a metaphor for smaller and better things to come on Earth. Nonetheless, no matter how many matters there are, it's going to be our good clean fun little secret. Mainstreamers will most likely always be somewhat perplexed when they see us blow up our Neumatic Surfcraft or 4th Gear Flyer, or whatever inflatable debatable, and set out to explore the innermost limits of pure fun.

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