Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Surf mats - jet propelled bodysurfing or a lot of hot air?

I'll huff and I'll puff and I'll ... blow up a surf mat? Mention inflatables and waves in the same breath and I'm picturing lifeguards paddling out after kiddies heading for the horizon. Equating surf mats with air beds is a cheap shot, but one the devotees are probably well used to. Anyway, I'm not sure you could call it a full blown (chortle, chortle) renaissance, but there seems to be a growing tide of interest in these "alternative" surf craft.
I've yet to see any evidence of them around Cornish coasts but I'm sure it's only a matter of time. There's clearly some passion out there for these puffed up products. Tips, techniques and feedback on the Neumatic Surf Mat as sold by Dale Solomonson are earnestly discussed in some detail here.
At around $350 / £180 each, I'm not sure that I'd want to splash out on something that comes with a puncture repair kit but over at Magic Seaweed they're flogging similar variants ranging from £18 - £80 quid. Still, that man George Greenough knows a thing or three about riding waves and he's been into these things for yonks.


Paula the Surf Mom said...

No way!!!! I don't approve of those anywhere surfing is happening.

Anonymous said...

There are two types of speed involved in riding a wave, perceived speed, and actual speed. Imagine the visual perception of speed associated with bodysurfing, combine this with an incredible leap in actual speed gained from bodysurfing with a full suspension system and a nearly frictionless hull, and you've got mat surfing. Like the difference between going 50 mph in an enclosed car, and doing it in a go-cart with no windshield, helmet, or goggles. Greenough used to race go-carts(highly modifyed) around the hills behind his home, hitting in the speed neighborhood of 120 mph. The man clearly likes his toys to go fast, and has been riding surfmats exclusively since '92. Give one a try(several actually, it's not quite as easy as it looks) and eventually you will be greatly rewarded with the fastest, smoothest, and most sensitive form of waveriding.

Jgirl said...

I dont care what George says...that aint surfen'.

BlowUp said...

I've ridden my Neumatic surf mat in Costa Rica, Portugal, and Hawaii so far. Every time I ride it, I am surprised by some new aspect of this very special surf vehicle.

Last week I was in Hana, on Maui. On my first wave, I took off on a nice 4-6 footer, only to find a longboarder has dropped in on me. No worries--I just steered the mat across his tail, passed him, cruised around a few section that he couldn't make, and continued riding the wave all the way across the bay. Connecting up a bunch of sections for a long, long glide is one of the mat's strong points.

I've been surfing all my life, and I'm 56. I started with a 9'6" Hobie, no leash, thing weighed 30 lbs. Shortboards, longboards, boogie boards, bodysurfing, windsurfing, I've done it all, loved it all, over the years. But nothing has given me any greater pleasure than mat surfing. It's a blast, and it suits my nomadic professional life to a T. The mat is always in my suitcase, along with my fins and a wettie.

As for those narcissistic zealots who judge mat surfing as an inferior or unacceptable way to ride waves: who appointed you to be the judge of other peoples actions? Lighten up, willya?

"Each of us has his own special gifts
And you know this was meant to be true,
But please don't underestimate me
and I won't underestimate you."

--Bob Dylan, "Dear Landlord"

Mick said...

Having seen mats at first hand in the 'hands' of master mat rider Warren Pfeiffer on Kiing Island recently, rest assured they are valid, fast and lots of fun. Remember it's not what you ride but why you're there that makes a surfer a surfer.

Beach Bum said...

Yeah - I agree - in fact if I can pick one up on a trip to NYC I have coming up in May, I'll be stoked to be the first person I know of to try one out here! Good article on the mats and Dale Solomonson here.

Monique Bryher said...

Paula the Surf Mom and JGirl are surf Nazis, narrow-minded and dogmatic. Who cares whether they "approve" of surf mats or not?
Surf mats were popular long before these two were born. I've been riding them since the early 1960s and see no reason to change. They're fun, gutsy and the surfboarders I ride with have nothing but respect for me.
As the gentlemen noted, surfing is about being there, riding and enjoying the sun, waves and camaraderie. I ride next to people on surf boards, boogie boards, canoe surfers, paddle board surfers, etc. and nobody judges what another enjoys - they're all different ways of catching a wave.

GRAYMAN said...

It's a real shame the two people with downers on mats are women. I remember years ago in the UK when a woman in the surf was seen as an oddity and certainly not taken seriously.

Ring any bells girls? Granted, you probably weren't surfing then and I will only assume you won't have seen much outside recognised surfing beaches anyway (perhaps I'm being unfair) but I really think you need to show some respect. It's the best way to earn it.

Anyway, I stoked to see you've posted this and wanted to let you know that there is actually a thriving community of mat surfers in the UK. Check us out: