Jan 30, 2010

More Travel Tips From BJ!

Hi Paul,

I'm heading down the coast camping with my wife and son today. Here's a picture of my Travel Quiver. 2 Ply Bellyboards, 2 Paulownia handplanes, My Fatty Mat, 2 wetsuits, a pair of UDT's and a pair of boardshorts! All in one easy-to-carry Milk-crate!

Cheers, BJ!

Jan 28, 2010

Mat Riding Test Vid...

Lenin in SB set up his tripod and video recorder -- with 18 minutes worth of battery -- on the beach, and managed to get three waves in camera range during that time frame. Surprisingly good results for first time out.

The image is very small on this download, as well as far away from the camera, so hard to tell what's going on in this version. You can go here and see a larger version. Opt for the "free user" option. It takes a few minutes to download, but it works fine.

Nice burst of speed on the small first wave. Really shows how well mats work in point surf... :)

Alternative link is here. (There is no sound, BTW.)

Jan 25, 2010

Virtuoso Mat Riding

"I just had a good long look at this photo of Greeno. At first it doesn't jump out at all, so minimalist you don't even notice, but he's displacing almost ZERO water. There's about as much spray as a pelican's wake coming off the inside rail, and only just slightly more from the outside corner, and I believe that's because he has his weight on his left leg. Just when you think you're getting the hang of this mat surfing deal... back to the drawing board. I've got so much to learn..."

More displacement-free mat surfing by George Greenough...

Jan 19, 2010

UDT pages from "The Magic Towel - Vol. 1" by RS

"L'enfint Terrible"

"Over The Falls And Far Away"

"Path To Righteousness Paved By Shadow Of Sunrise"

"R U Sure Greg Deets Is Only 6 Feet 4 Inches Tall?"

(All works water soluable felt pen on spiral bound graph paper.)

Jan 18, 2010

Swim Fin Survey Results...

The fin survey was a great success, with a lot of you weighing in. About half sent photos, and I provided shots here and there to help avoid too much confusion. Not every fin mentioned got an image to go with it...but generally, it's pretty clear what's what.

3 or 4 of you couldn't resist sending shots of your gnarly fin-feet. Sorry dudes, George G has the corner on that market! Since Tom T's was the only foot pic sans bloody toe knuckles, I chose to run it as general representation.

Anyone else have anything to add? Use the comments section. Hopefully, we'll get more feedback as time goes on. We would especially like to hear from more women about their fin preferences.



Hey Paul,

My foot size is 9.5 and my favorite fins are Da Fin ML for bare foot. They don't mess up my feet at all so no need for neoprene socks or wrapping the strap in neoprene.

In the winter I use Force Fin Rip Force over 7 mil booties. Not as great as Da Fins however but the most comfort you'll get with a thick bootie on.

Justin V
Brooklyn, NY

PS How could I forget the Scubapro Jet Fins? Those rock too! Ultimate propulsion, just not as portable as Da Fins. I use them size L with 3 mm booties.


Hi Paul;

After 5 other brands, settled on Duckfeet! Perfect fit for my size 10-1/2 feet (my fins are in San Diego, I'm in Nevada--don't remember what size they are.) And they cost the least.

Your new web site looks great! If you ever want to use my drawings for something else, just let me know.

Tom T
San Diego, CA
Las Vegas, NV



In response to your post on the blog, here are my fins (winter set).

Hydro Tech fins. As you can see, I’ve trimmed down the outside edge so that they don’t overhang the rail of my kneeboard.

In the summer, I wear Hydro Tech II fins which get the same scalpel treatment but I’m “in between pairs” at the mo having left me last pair in the car park at Widemouth Bay, North Cornwall.

Don’t notice any loss of drive with the trim and for me Hydros (particularly the Tech II) are the most comfortable things out there.





Currently I am using a mis-matched pair of Duckfeet (XL). Usually worn up side down.

I use several different sized pairs (L-XL-SXL) depending on how thick a pair of booties I'm wearing.

I also use a pair of UDT's that I am still thinning out. (Size Large)

They are the only ones that are wide enough out of the box. (They will be perfect one day!)

I also use mis-matched shaped fins on occasion. ie one Tech fin and one Duckfoot.)

Size 10 feet triple EEE

Looking forward to seeing the data from your survey!

Bruce C
The OC


Hi Paul:

See attached photo of my favorite fins.

Jay B
San Marcos, CA



I use Vipers V7 (inch blade) always w/booties (or fin socks in tropics). I Aquasealed a fat layer of neoprene inside the heel strap to take up a bit of slack. They are very comfortable for me and I pool tested them against regular Duck Feet and the Vipers won on speed, acceleration, and maneuverability. About equal in comfort.
Tried UDT's but could not even get them on my feet they were so stiff. Either it was that pair, weak arms/legs, or something else but literally could not get them on! Had some Tech fins a number of years ago and after 45 minutes was driven from the ocean by foot pain. Could barely walk to get back to car. Crushed my feet laterally even though felt ok when first put them on.

I wear a size 7D shoe. When they made them, I used to wear a 6E

Dig the Surfmatters blog!

Thank you,
Geoffrey L
Bay Area, CA


Hi Paul,

I use UDEET's most of the time; also have a pair of Da Fins I use in the summer for body surfing.

Best Regards,

Hal F
San Clemente, CA



I have two different pairs of UDTs. The black pair are pretty new, only a month or two old. New rubber is really really good, only mods are to the middle rib, top and bottom, foiled flat, and of course the neoprene/plastic inserts to the top of the footpocket. The plastic stiffens the pocket to transfer stress away from the ankles/calves (per PG's directives, Thanks Paul.)

I use the black pair for pointbreaks or anywhere with a long paddle, or when the waves are big and I need a lot of horsepower.

The black/blue marbled pair are a few years old, have been extensively modified. Shortened a couple inches, thinned all ribs, and thinned the entire blade at the tip. Altered the ankle straps to accommodate my bony ankles, then added the neoprene heelstrap made by Balin. Blue pair also has the neoprene/plastic inserts. I use the marbled pair for surfing smaller waves, or shorter paddles, and whenever I bodysurf. They are much faster to sprint with, easier on the legs, but produce noticeably less horsepower than the longer black pair. As for sizing, the black pair are size Large. The marbled pair are odd, the left foot is a Large, the right is an XL. That was a happy mistake. They came as a mismatched pair from the factory, and conveniently my right foot is bigger than my left, so they fit PERFECTLY. The black pair fit well too, but the right foot is a little snug. I wear size 11.5 in Vans, a pretty standard measurement.

Tatum wears a size 7 in girls, and uses the Viper V-5 (the orange dot) in medium. She also has the Balin heelstraps because the medium fits a little loose, but the next size down was too small. Otherwise unmodified and work very well for her needs.

Jamie M
Queensland, Australia



I've almost exclusively worn Viper V-7's. I wear size XL because of the 3mm booties (shoe size = 10) I need up here in the bay area.

I love my new hybrid mat!!

Take care,

Nate K
The Aforementioned Bay Area, CA


Hi Paul,

I had a long drawn out fin-related story for you but, this is more to the point. I like the "good" Duckfeet (soft blade/hard pocket) from Deets/Voit or getting lucky at a Big 5, etc.

I am a 10.5 and wear an XL in Ducks or a L in UDTs. For me, Ducks provide enough power in everyday surf and are easiest on my feet (this after a long stint in Churchills, and a few months in too-big for my feet XL UDT's). I do use a piece of 1/2 inch "yoga Mat" material in the top of each fin which is buttery soft on foot, toes, etc, which seems to transfer some power away from my toes and higher up the foot (less cramping possibilities). After a short break-in, the material stays in place with no glue too which makes it easy to use in your next set of fins. I do have a gummy pair of L UDT's from Greg Deets in the on-deck circle which may be my next "best fin ever."

Jeff C
Encinitas, CA

PS. Beware of the great majority of Duckfeet out there with soft pocket/hard blades. They do not work!!


Hi Paul,

I'm loving my new Fatty! We haven't had any spectacular surf this last week or so, but I've been having a blast riding the mat! I started getting the hang of the squeeze/release technique for bottom turns and cutbacks this morning. I can't wait to get out in some nice clean waves.

I've attached a pic of the fins I've been using for about the last year. They are Propel brand fins, and they have a slightly longer blade than Churchy's, deep full length side ribs, and the blade also fans out from about halfway down the foot cup. They are a bit stiff, but very comfortable. They accelerate very well, but are a bit short for long paddles. I've ordered a pair of UDT's so I'll be able to compare them soon.

Billy-joe S
Victoria, Australia



I use those blue Tech fins. They're pretty good. I like that ankle leash.

However, I think they're a bit short. I can't kick hard enough to get into a wave without also paddling. Still, I got them for free, and they work, so I'm not complaining too loudly!

Mary M
Los Angeles, CA


Hi Paul

UDT's here, Large size, black/blue marbled, cut down in both length and stiffness. I wear them with a 1mm neoprene sock.


Richard S
Byron Bay, Australia


Hey Paul

I've attached some fins.......all tweaked UDT's

We all use the UDT's coming from your initial recommendation along with Mr Morlat, and Jamie (who gave me some great trimming tips). I think what I/we like about the UDT's is the narrowness and the flex/snap that can be achieved with some foiling time-belt sanding etc. I just kept thinning mine out, at the end and the side rails also, to take of some weight and add flex-I know some people use these un-neutered but for me they were just too rigid/heavy (for my sticks at least)

I think taking an inch or two off the length also helps with scrambling in/out over the rocks. I tried DA-Fins to ill effect and also Vipers, and kept going back to the UDT's.

Washed up flippers, Lennox Head, 2009. Where'd the other foot go?

Ricky S
Los Angeles, CA


Hi Paul,

Currently using Vipers (V5 yellow dot) when mat riding, gave UDT’s a go for a year or so, liked the thrust, did not like the weight of UDT’s, find Vipers a good compromise...
Thinking of getting a pair of Force Fin Pro’s, used them for bodyboarding in mid 80s for a couple of years, made the feet feel very free, probably not quite enough trust, but life’s all about making compromises in certain situations.

Henry M

PS Piskian’s comment on the blog of this topic made me laugh! When we had the UK Mat Meet, his feet were ripped to shred by the fins he was using, blood pouring of them (so much so that if I had been surfing in sharky water, I would not have gone out where he was surfing.) Hopefully your research may help him...(He has a great fluid style on the mat, easily the most stylish mat surfer of the day when we had the meet...)



I use Flips, but I'e not had much success with them over socks. I attached some fin savers (which snagged on the straps, so I may drill a hole in the foot) on my last session but both fins came off at different times so I'm going to keep them as summer jobs. I bought a pair of Lagunas which are super comfy but don't provide enough drive, too short I reckon. I've discussed fins with Cookson from Ukmatsurfers and he has similar problems i.e very wide feet causing cramp in most hard rubber fins. He's recommended Da Fins so I'll be getting a pair. If anyone could combine the foot pocket of Lagunas and the same blade as Flips they would be the ultimate fin!



Matt D


Hey Paul,

I'm wearing either Duck Feet or UDT's...depending. Did the UDTs for a year until I started having some ankle issues and then went to the duck feet last summer and loved em. Rode em steady until I got to Puerto Rico last couple of weeks and needed all the power I could get to make it out. Went back to the UDTs and loved em. No chronic issues but I was only there a couple of weeks. Foot size is 9 1/2 and I prefer the blue and black UDTs as the blacks are way too stiff. Don't use booties unless I have to and then its 2 mil fin socks.

Thanks for the web site. Its great to hear about other guys that ride air and plastic. Learned a bit from the site about technique and I can always use more of that.

Rich H
Beach Haven, NJ


Hey Paul -

I saw on your blog that you were compiling fin data. Here is a pic of three types I've used. They're all pretty good... certainly more thrust than my old Churchills. I don't have a pic of those but they felt kind of feeble. I don't have any experience with some of the new fins like 'Da Fin' or the latest Churchills for Boogie riders. They seem short and perhaps made for the guys who do the one knee thing(?) I just ride prone.

In order of preference, my fin choices are:

Viper Yellow Dot

The Vipers are the lightest and most compact of the bunch and the side blades seem to maintain stiffness and directional control. If I were going on a long hike and weight were a factor, the Vipers are a solid 2 lbs lighter (3 1/2 lbs vs 5 1/2 lbs.)

The Force fins are somewhere in between weight wise. They have a nice neoprene pad that inserts across the top for comfort but the blades are a weird shape for kicking in to waves - they seem somewhat floppy. I'm also not sure about durability of the bungie cord heel retainer although these have held up alright.

The UDTs and Vipers feel stiffer and seem to have better thrust when stomped on.

The UDTs are claimed by Greg Deets to be a softer formula but these feel about the same as my old ones. He insisted that his formula was softer and asked me to bend the old ones like a taco... "Can't do it , right?" He asked. I could. In a side by side comparison, my old ones felt essentially the same.

I broke one of the straps on my old pair and was stoked when Greg Deets made the new model available. I just use them stock and that has raised a few eyebrows with other dedicated mat riders who apparently follow whatever George Greenough is up to, including modification of UDT fins. At a mat gathering in Santa Cruz a few years ago, I was questioned when one guy saw my fins.... "UNMODIFIED?!!!" (gasp!)

I'd better get with the program I suppose. I could use any of these for body surfing, mat, or bellyboard riding but the UDTs are my 'go to' fins.

I wear size 12 shoe.

UDT = "Super" - fits well with 3mm split toe booties with light outer sole.
Viper = XL (11-13) - fits well with 3mm bootie with light outer sole.
Force = XXL - biggest of the bunch even with inserts. I use these with a pair of 5mm booties with no outer sole. (Dive socks)

John M
Los Osos, CA


Hi Paul,

I wear size 11 wide shoes. I have been wearing UDT fins, size XL, no booties, for several years now. I like them a lot as far as thrust and planing, although if I surf too much like this winter (roughly 2-3 hours a day), then my feet wear out and they don't heal until the surf goes flat for a while. I sometimes think about shifting over to something softer like Da Fin, which will be my next choice once I'm in the market for a new flipper.

Dirk B
Santa Barbara, CA


Hi PG,

After decades of fin frustration, I'm really stoked on pod PF2s, even though they are short-blade bodyboard-type flippers.

PF2s are the only swimfins that don't hurt my fat knobby feet. And they have superb side rails for gripping the wave. Kicking speed is not all that great, but they accelerate quickly for catching waves, plus are a big help in steep waves and when getting around foamy sections. I ended up padding the straps with neoprene so that the edges don't rub my ankles. (pod PF3s are excellent small wave fins, except that they cause pain on one particular bump on on my feet.)


Jan 15, 2010

Hey Marc, Celcius or Farhenheit? :)

Hi Paul,

I have got the T-shirts! Many thanks! I will wear them with pride!

Last Saturday we had a solid swell (see picture) but way too cold for matsurfing...minus 3!

Speak to you soon,

Marc from The Netherlands

Jan 12, 2010

A Bit of Swim Fin History

This is from Cal Porter's wonderful "Then and Now" blog, which documents the Southern California Coast in times gone by. This entry covers some fairly early (Owen Churchill) and really early (Ben Franklin) swim fin pioneers!


Owen Churchill is given credit for inventing the swim fin. His fins are well-known throughout the world. The idea came to him while on a trip to Tahiti in the mid-1930’s, where he observed a group of natives on the beach weaving small mats from palm fronds and dipping them into a tub of hot tar. When the tar had cooled and hardened they would tie these mats to their feet and enter the ocean to swim or free dive. Churchill was fascinated by the tremendous increase in swimming speed this generated. He returned to the States and immediately began developing and patenting the first rubber swim fins. I was there at the Olympic Swim Stadium in Los Angeles in 1940 when he first introduced his invention. I watched in amazement as each swimmer wearing the black, vulcanized rubber, Churchill swim fins easily shattered the world’s records for the 50 and 100 meters. Soon after, Churchill made his fins available to the public. He sold very few that first year but I rushed out to be one of the first customers at $4.95 a pair. It was a sizable expenditure but no problem; in 1940 I was making 35 cents an hour as a lifeguard at the Venice Salt Water Plunge.

Churchill’s First Fins, photo source: Smithsonian

But let’s take a look back a few years, back to over 200 years before Churchill’s 1930’s invention. It is the year 1720, and we’re not in the South Seas, we’re in the waters of Boston Harbor. Bostonians were terrified of the water at that time. One writer summed it up this way: “The most frequent use of the harbor is for transport, and drowning”. However, there was one 14 year old boy who had no fear of the waters of Boston Harbor. He frequented the wharves, marshes and docks, loved the water, and taught himself to swim expertly. In later years he advocated universal swim lessons for all, unheard of in his day. In his own words, “I had a strong inclination for the sea; living near the water, I was much in it and about it and learnt early to swim well”. He developed powerful arms and shoulders from swimming and soon showed how inventive he could be at his favorite sport. He was about to conduct his first experiment and test his first invention; dozens would follow. His name? Benjamin Franklin. I learned of his exploits by studying his own writings in the Philadelphia Franklin Library, and from others who wrote about his amazing life. This quote is from the book, The New American, by Milton Meltzer: “He loved playing in the water, and not content with using his hands and feet to swim, he made oval paddles to be held in the palms to increase his speed. Then he added flippers to his feet to further increase his speed”. And a quote from Ben Franklin, himself, from a letter he wrote some years later to his friend, Barbeau Dubourg: “When I was a boy I made two oval palettes, each about ten inches long and six broad, with a hole for the thumb in order to retain it fast in the palm of my hand. They much resembled a painter’s palette. In swimming, I pushed the edges of these forward, and I struck the water with their flat surfaces as I drew them back. I remember I swam faster by means of these palettes, but they fatigued my wrists. I also fitted to the soles of my feet a kind of sandals; but I was not satisfied with them because I observed that the stroke is partly given by the inside of the feet and the ankles and not entirely with the soles of the feet”.

So here in 1720 we have the very first hand paddles or hand fins, and the first swim fins for the feet (Leonardo da Vinci briefly gave thought to the idea of fins in the 1400’s). The first commercial hand paddles I ever saw were put out by the Sea Net Manufacturing Company of Los Angeles in 1944, and of course fins arrived in 1940. To fully utilize these two inventions of his for increasing his swimming speed Franklin probably experimented with some sort of front crawl stroke, (“I struck the water with their flat surfaces”), and a flutter kick with his feet to make the fins work, both of which would again put him a hundred and fifty years ahead of his time since the breast stroke was the only method used by the few people who could swim at all at that time; even the side stroke was unknown.

In addition, Franklin came up with other ideas to increase his speed in the water. The marsh or pond area of the harbor where he swam was one mile across. On days when a brisk wind was blowing, he would send his friend with his clothes to the other side, a mile away. He would then let loose above the water and into the wind a sturdy kite that he had made, and hanging onto the cord, he would race across the harbor “at a most agreeable speed”. Sounds like the precursor of many later water activities that we now know, and are popular today. If there had been a handy plank around I’m sure Franklin would have aquaplaned across the harbor. Who knows what other aquatic ideas he might have come up with if he hadn’t been sidetracked harnessing electricity, inventing reading glasses, and heating stoves, and lightning rods, and the odometer, and countless other inventions, and then, of course, taking part in forming the United States of America and signing The Constitution.

And what if he had lived closer to the beach when he was a kid in 1720 instead of inland on the other side of the harbor? And what if he saw those beautiful, white- crested waves rolling unridden toward the shore, and there was an old, thin plank of wood lying on the beach? Do you think it possible, with that imagination and inventiveness of his, that he just might have come up with another of his aquatic ideas?

No doubt!

Jan 10, 2010