Mar 30, 2009

More Mat Riding History ...

From the early days of Nor Cal surfing ... Looks like the mat surfer is one of the few blokes with enough sense to use a decent wettie!

Mar 28, 2009

Early Mat Surfing...

Image from 1935 ... with a pedigree including Conde Nast and Vogue, no less!

Mar 26, 2009

Shout out to JJ ...

Recently, I got this shot from Jonathan J, and a note complaining that he didn't have enough room for all his mats, and the entrance to his garage was now permanently blocked.

If anybody has his cell, give him a ring and let him know that mats are deflatable!

Mar 25, 2009

From Girlfriends to Water Safety to Weight Loss ... Inflatables Rule!!!

Direct from the San Fernando Valley, of course...

If you like swimming in deep water, you probably should learn how to swim!

Is this Jay Norris guilty of hoodwinking people? Yes he is!!!!

Mar 23, 2009

From Jonathan J ... Black and Blue Prototype 4GF Impresssions

Hello Paul!

I discovered my package on my porch last night...totally stoked!

My first impression was that you struck gold with this new fabric. The tactility of both the black and the blue is spot-on...perfect applications for both top and bottom skins!

Right away I could tell the canvas-like feel of the black was gonna be the ticket for ideal adhesion qualities. The blue bottom is the perfect counter-part to the deck...slick and responsive to a wave's varying texture.

I took it out for her maiden voyage this morning, close by in Newport Beach. I wasn't anticipating stellar results, given the predicted surf conditions for Saturday. (1 to 2 foot leftover combo swell w/ onshore winds.) I was thinking, "I don't care how crappy it is, I'm going anyway!" Much to my delight, it was more like 1 to 3 foot and semi-glassy! Finally, a decent demo day.

I really dug the black top! The mat stayed right where I wanted it the entire time. It made positioning, duck-diving, paddling, way more intuitive...meaning, you never really had to think about it much, and that's a good thing. Both fabrics really work well together. I love the fact that it's a little stiffer, yet still responsive to hand-jive, bending arcs, etc...

On one wave in particular, I was able to build a sufficient "rail", to make this screaming fast section. It culminated in a decent barrel with the classic close out but, traveling across that steepest part of the wave, as brief as it was, I felt like I was on rails!

That was the wave I came in on. (I only fed so many quarters into the parking meter.)Would I have traded that one wave for a $40.00 ticket? You bet I would!

P.S. Another cool thing I noticed as I was walking up the beach...the blue bottom of the mat had almost turned to black when it was wet. Is the latest 4GF a sort of mood ring? "Paint It Black" could be matspeak for "Go out there and get wet already!"

Take care,


Mar 19, 2009

New Mat and Fippers!

I'm so super-stoked on the prototype mat that PG sent me that I had to get new flippers to go with it! There have been some fun waves down here lately, and I've been having a blast with my new toys:

The Blacktop Bluebelly mat rides great, and gets better with each session, as the fabric becomes more supple. I'm calling it the Blue Groove because the iridescent bottom fabric reminds me of when racing tracks get sticky rubber laid down and the fastest line is on the shiny "blue groove". I really like the new canvas-like heavy-duty nylon deck, which allows subtle shifting around while still providing good grip. After eight bareback surfs, I've yet to develop a canvas rash! The slightly thicker blue bottom fabric holds a line better without any loss of speed. Handling is smooth and sure with superior "suspension" to even out bumpy water. The new mat is far more robust and will probably last for a very long time. Overall, The Fatty with fresh materials is a big step forward in performance, user friendliness, and probable durability...

...As is stepping up from Tech 2 flippers to Kicks, which have a bit more power and are way more comfortable. Kicks' big brother, Da Fin, have a tiny bit more kicking speed, but Kicks are softer on my feet and the round shape is easier to maneuver with. I like the keel ridges on the sides for steering with. They float, are bright so as to retrieve them if they come off, and don't look much like anything a shark would want to eat.

Tech 2s are good for shorebreak because they drain sand out very quickly and have super-short blades for when you need to touch the bottom, run up the sand, flip around quickly... However, when I get going ultra-fast and drag my foot, Tech 2s scoop water and balloon up, causing the brakes to go on, and sometimes even pulling the flipper off. We'll see if this happens with Kicks. Da Fin don't seem to have this problem. So far, so good with my new Kicks...

I'll see if I can get someone to take some action shots this weekend.

Mar 9, 2009

My Baby Picture

Just had to reprint this photo from like '62 -- inspired by the priceless photo second post below!

More mid-50's Lilo Action!

Mar 5, 2009

One Day To Remember ...

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.

It's funny how many times in the last few months a senior citizen will come up to me as I come in from matting to say, "You have so much fun!" What can you say? I usually have said, "I know it's kinda ridiculous, but so much fun." One German gal summed it up in a way that sticks in my head, "Theez is vaat zee life eez about." It sure is fun.

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!