Apr 30, 2014

Well said, Dirk !!!

Photos: Maria McCall

Hi Paul,
Early bird worms into a few gets.
Best,  Dirk

Apr 28, 2014

30 Years of Tinkering and Testing #1: Overview

(This is a pile of prototypes for a 4GF model that never made the cut...)

4th Gear Flyer passed a milestone of sorts over Easter Weekend…we sold our 4000th mat since 1984. (Gloria’s a fastidious record keeper.) Add to that the 800+ prototypes and personal mats I’ve made since 1983, and we’re approaching the 5000 mark!
From the very beginning, I've taken a methodical approach to mat design. Part of the reason was the influence of George Greenough and Greg Liddle – two friends who each had an “engineering” perspective on board building -- and part of it was the nature of mat construction itself.

In spite of the fact that mats are made up of curved tubes when inflated, the “build parts” are all straight, square, and thus easily calibrated. And while it’s virtually impossible to handshape two identical surfboards, it’s relatively easy to build two identical mats. All the parts can be marked out in the style of a draftsman, then assembled and welded with great consistency. This means that it’s easy to replicate a good mat over and over again. Having the capacity to make surfing vehicles accurately was, and is, a great boon to mat design progress.

Of course, the down side of having complete control over the construction of a mat is that “happy mistakes” generally don’t happen. With hand shaped, hand glassed surfboards, there are so many natural variations from board to board that magic boards often appear without intention...and something new is learned from them. But when building a mat? That just doesn’t happen. You have to deliberately make changes from mat-to-mat to create variations. That’s why a methodical approach is natural.

When I was working out the final details of the Tracker Roundtail in the summer of 2010, I had the general design in place after about a dozen prototypes…but the height of the two small I-Beams hadn’t been fully sorted. So I built six more prototypes with an I-Beam height variation of 1/8” from mat to mat…starting with what I thought would be too tall to what I thought would be too small. After sitting in dry dock for a week or so, the surf came up and I rode all 6 prototypes on the same afternoon…making mental notes after every few waves. One I-Beam height emerged as being distinctly better. I ran the same test with those 6 mats early the next morning, and drew the same conclusion. Since the best I-Beam height for the Tracker was in the middle of the range I tested, I knew I’d found the right one.

Maybe the oddest thing about design is that a "magic mat" invariably comes from a tedious process of tinkering. There’s no artistic inspiration -- as there often is with board shaping -- since mats tend to look the same even when they perform differently. So it comes down to taking the time (and spending the money) to build and test all the options to figure out what it takes to birth a magic mat. Not fun. Not pretty. But a good result.

With so many mats under the 4th Gear Flyer belt, I thought this might be a good time to go through some of the specific design variations that have been tested over the years. I'll post something on the subject once or twice a week for the next month or so!

From Surf Sister, Today ...

The Lotus kicks ass . . . again, yet and still.


From Eric ...

Hi Paul

Surfed our local point break with Adam on Saturday had a great time sliding into clean fast walls on my 4GF drop rail omni
Off to Western Australia soon and will send you some pictures from the wild west of Margret river and Denmark
Regards Eric da Bolt.

From Bretto ...

Hi Paul,

You had to hang onto your hat, and hang onto your mat! This place was awesome, deceptively beautiful but dangerous and cruel.


Apr 26, 2014

"Celebrating Blow Up Art, Architecture, and Design"

Hi Paul,

I never saw this book, but I bet it's unreal.


Apr 25, 2014

From Terry ...

Hi Paul,

I hope your time away was fun. I am absolutely loving the Lotus 7 mat. I had her out in some big barreling waves at a place we call Urchin Reef. So much fun. Fast and maneuverable. I had to do some serious duck dives too. No problem at all. Here is a picture of Johnny Tofu and myself on our 4GF’s in full mat relax position between sets at our local.


Apr 24, 2014

From Jenny ...

Hi Paul,
I'm in the home stretch right now - 3 weeks to go! I'm going to try to squeeze into my wetsuit tomorrow to get out at least one more time before this kid makes an appearance.

Thanks again,

Instagram Update ...

I guess we've cracked the magic "200 follower" number. I think Instagram gives you a million dollars or a free trip to Morocco or something for this particular threshold. I'll have to ask Surf Sister, who's our Instagram honcho.

The photos she's publishing aren't exactly what I would pick, but since I get to post all the shots on Surfmatters, this changes things up. The shots themselves have to be square, or almost square, to work on Instagram, so the format is different than the overall trend toward wide-width imagery in our culture. At first it kind of bugged me, but seeing familiar photos cropped differently is actually kind of interesting.



Honestly, I don't have a feel for the appeal of Instagram -- I still use a flip-phone -- so I'm letting Surf Sister run with it and see what happens.

Oh...I'm back from Oregon, so orders and inquires will get a quick response!



Apr 11, 2014

Bretto Goes Left ... Again

We began to get bored after a few days of surfing rights so we headed to fickle point break that runs into a bay. Here you could take off set up your fall line and get slotted the whole way down the point.


Apr 9, 2014

Bretto, Uninterrupted


Hi Paul,

The next day the right was bigger. Opening up better down the inside. Big drops out the back.


The Right ...


Hi Paul,

We pulled up at this right and it looked good so we hit it. It was only small at first and fun. As the tide pushed it got better and better.


The Left ...



The left was also fun on the mat.


Apr 8, 2014

From Roberto ...

Hey Paul,

Just wanted to let you know that I had an absolute blast on my Fatty in Nicaragua. I was at Solid Surf in El Transito.  I still have a lot to learn about riding the mat, but I do know it is a ton of fun.
Bobby Hopp

Apr 7, 2014

From Eden ... Literally as Well As Figuratively

Hey Paul here's a little clean afternoon from Noosa.

Lotus is wild.

Eden Saul
Dead Kooks Surfboards

Apr 6, 2014

Bretto's Home ...

Hi Paul,

Arrived home on the weekend safe and sound. The surf was pumping yesterday so what a great homecoming.

When we were in the islands our main focus was searching and surfing, not so much on the photography side of things. We were lucky however that our boat captain would snap a few if our anchorage was in view of the waves, of which often it was not. Old mate did a pretty good job considering how difficult it is.

Here is a sample of a right hander we found that the anchorage provided a good look at the wave.