Tuesday, December 27, 2011

100 posts!

I have just finished reading PG's "year in review" post and I am thinking well that is not a bad idea so I might do something similar. Embarking on that very task, I discovered that so far this year, I have posted 99 times. It is cricket season here in Oz and, as I write this post, I am keeping an eye on the test match that the Aussies are playing against the Indians at the MCG. 99 is every batsman's nightmare score so I'll be buggared if I will allow this year to go by without scoring a ton especially as I did not get the opportunity to bat yesterday at the annual social Boxing Day Test Match I have been attending for nearly twenty years.
Yes, I have played a bit of cricket as a result of nine years captive in an Australian boarding school where there is little else to do but engage in some sporting activity!! In my case that meant playing tennis (many hours trying to perfect McEnroe's wonderful looping kick serve action), bowling at somebody in the cricket nets (they didn't call me Thomo for nothing), kicking a footy around (started that game too late at the age of 10 and only ever made the 2nd XVIII), swim team training (yep butterfly included) and finally and possibly most surprisingly shot put (which included dragging sections of bloody heavy ship's chain across the oval to gain more leg strength). I still have those legs too!
Anyway back to the central theme of this post.

 The year started off with a bang as I pulled together a couple of videos of GG on Maui and made a slo-mo version also. Then it was discovered that Mark Thomson was trying to break a world speed record and that 4th Gear Flyer were experimenting with a mega-mat that allowed you to surf with a buddy! I had recently received a Neumatic from Dale Solomonson and he had provided some insights into mat riding in response to an email from me and I posted more of his comments on mat riding that I researched from Swaylocks here.

 In February I bought a Surfoplane and discovered that you could ride them standing up!

In March I posted a pic of a painting of GG and discussed why I had decided to sell my boards.

 In April, I turned 58, was disappointed with the DaFins that I had purchased and MT locked in!

 In May I pulled a groin muscle as my front foot slipped forward popping up on a longboard. I created the first of the "Surf mats and their riders" slideshows and another of ET, the only other West Aussie mat rider I have come across to date, enjoying a session at a break nearby. I also uploaded some footage of a session at Shipsterns in Tasmania featuring the iconic Aussie Blues band Bondi Cigar's Howlin' at the Moon as a soundtrack that has garnered nearly 26,000 views. 

 June was Mat Meet month with both the US and UK mat riders organising meets. I purchased a pair of webbed Darkfin gloves to protect my finger tips, did a photo fin comparison and had a stellar session at the same break ET had enjoyed in the slideshow from the month before

In July, I went absolutely berserk and posted 14 times although that is a paltry effort in comparison to Prana's usual efforts. Anyway, one of the most compelling images of mat riding I had seen to date appeared, the sandbar at my usual haunt was breached providing a great wave for 2 weeks. I gave both the MT5 and the Standard a run, reviewed the Darkfin gloves, ordered a pair of Duck Feet fins in the wrong size and created the 2nd "Surf mats and their riders" slideshow. Whew!

In comparison to July, August was a poor posting month with my resorting to posting an image of a strawberry mat and some poor bastard with malleable eyes performing his favourite party trick. This was all because 2 weeks after the little A-frame that produced the great waves appeared, it went and disappeared leaving us with the ugly sight chosen as this month's image. I did get one unexpectedly good session though which was the highlight of the month.

 September started interestingly with a post that ended with me espousing a new mantra "Ride like a dolphin!" Ummmm! Oh well. I created the 3rd "Surf riders and their mats" slideshow, another slideshow of MT on a very fine looking wave and a little off blog topic, posted a video of Ramsnake playing at a great outdoor venue. I was finally able to review the Duck Feet fins as they were the correct size and in a later post pronounced them the hands down best all round fin for mat riding that I had discovered to date. I also added a link to some interesting out of date mat related articles mat and showed off my quiver!

 October saw the release of the best mat riding footage I have ever seen in Mark Thomson's Turbo Time II, a review of the Vespa Roundtail, my revelation about mat size and a generous donation from Tom Threinen for the out of print library.

In November I turn inventor designing and manufacturing a mat strap to carry my quiver. I finally find some green water again, MT's grandson learns to ride a jellyfish and I bag the 4th Gear Flyer UDT. Erik Schmahl demonstrates how to ride a mat without fins and off blog topic I post pics of the new veggie garden.

 December is another eventful month where I again go berserk with 12 posts with one of them creating an unusual amount of vitriol! It started off fairly tamely with a couple of revelations although one of them did display an image of a mat rider who seemed to have attained a similar status to Hannibal Lecter by mid month in the eyes of some! No, no, no. The rider in the 2nd image. A very pleasant post showing a couple of the fairer gender delightedly enjoying sharing a wave on their mats in Hawaii did not provide any clue to what was about to erupt. I then created a 4th "Surf Mat riders and their mats" slideshow before offering you mostly fine people the opportunity to download a  slo-mo version of Turbo Time II I had created before biting the bullet and splitting it here and here so as it could go on YouTube. It was then that Tremor Temchin alerted to me to the existence of 3 most informative videos that MT had made for the Wet Sand Surf Shop which I spliced together, uploaded to YouTube and embedded in a post. Clearly this was just to much for some. Neumatics-R-Us erupted, GG rang Paul, suddenly there was a flurry of interesting and informative posts on Surfmatters and Magic Carpet Ride was blogona non gratis! After the dust settled, there was a complaint in relation to having to pop up and a thumbs up for habit learning before we finished off the year on a high with Chad's beautifully edited little video!

I wish you all, yes everyone of you, a Happy, Productive and Magnanimous New Year!

Friday, December 23, 2011


It appears I have been completely and utterly excommunicated by the founding fathers of the mat riding community. Magic Carpet Ride no longer appears as a link on SURFMATTERS and none of my comments on any posts are approved. I think God has spoken!
Fortunately, it is no longer the middle ages, and the internet allows shunned folk such as myself to continue to do what we do. In my case, that is to record my mat riding journey and how what is happening in the whole global mat riding community, rather than the filtered depiction some would prefer, impacts on that journey.
Anyway, PG has been posting like mad lately and as I can't get any of my comments approved I thought I may as well comment here instead and not even God can stop me doing that!

The latest post relates to night mat riding and that certainly sounds like it would be terrific fun but a little disconcerting at the same time. I would sure as hell like plenty of moonlight to quell my quivering nerves and I am not confident that would help much!

I am particularly taken with this image for a couple of reasons. One, I would love to have been one of those riders as that wave looks like it is setting up to be a great party wave with plenty of opportunities for passing and bumping. Secondly, it kinda reminds me of dolphins too, who are mad to share waves, but just underneath the surface, of course, rather than on top as these three very lucky gentlemen are doing.

Oh and I was wondering if anybody has sighted, purchased or ridden a surf mat that has actually been made by GG?
No? Oh ok then. Here is something to ponder, assuming I am correct in thinking that I must have been banished from SURFMATTERS as GG still has a financial interest in Fourth Gear Flyer as he was one of the founding partners along with Dale Solomonson. What is the difference between GG assisting with research and testing for a mat maker in the US and Mark Thomson doing the same but having his mats manufactured in Taiwan?
Now for those of you who seem to have had a problem gauging this in the past, I am actually stirring the pot this time! Tsk, Tsk! Heathen, get thee from my church!

Thursday, December 22, 2011

A big "Yay!" for habit learning!

Finally got out on a mat again yesterday at a less populated peak but with pretty poorly shaped waves. Basically a take off, drop in, bit of a bottom turn and that was it. But hey it was nice to feel the aliveness of a mat underneath me again. I was interested to note as I was going right and performing a bottom turn how automatically I squeezed the left corner of the mat and pulled it up to commence the turn and how instantaneously the inner fin kicked in to steady my line when it was needed. Now nobody has instructed me to do that it has come about through repetition and trial-and-error.
Having been a teacher for over 30 years this still fascinates me so I did a little research here.
Humans have a particularly capacity to learn and retain information unconsciously retaining so-called habit memory even when conscious or declarative learning is absent. Because our temporal based declarative memory based, the one that is used for active learning and memorisation, is so dominant, there is actually not a great deal of understanding about habit learning in humans which is believed to be retained in an area of the brain known as the basal ganglia.
Testing on patients with temporal lobe damage has shown that they can learn to do something correctly through a process of repetition even as they are expressing aloud "How am I doing this?". This helps to explain why a patient with amnesia can still navigate their way around their neighbourhood using their habit memory.
The habit learning system is working all the time behind the scenes, in addition to my conscious learning system, independently shaping who I am and how I behave, and so adeptly assisting me to learn to ride a mat 'cos there ain't no teachers around here!

Monday, December 19, 2011

Having to pop up before .......

............ you can really get going on the wave? When one is used to  the immediacy of riding a mat this is more than slightly annoying hindrance to be frank! Now I know I have spoken about this before but it has reared it's head again as there has been very little swell around lately and so not conducive to mat riding. In these circumstance I revert to the stand up form of wave craft such as my "Already standing up and a bloody useful thing too" SUP or one of my 2 "Slightly annoying need to pop up first before I ride a wave" longboards.
I have had both of these types of craft out in the last couple of sessions which have been necessarily been around the bay. Getting to where the waves are on a SUP is just a pleasure and a great workout getting one nicely loosened up and ready to enjoy riding the waves when you get there. The beauty of a SUP of course is that one is already standing up and there is only a need to move the feet in to a lateral position just as the waves picks up the board and off you go. Brilliant and you get about the best complete body workout possible for every muscle particularly those important core ones!
Yesterday, I decided to take a 10' longboard around the bay. I could and have paddled around the bay but it takes a very, very longtime and although I am well loosened up when I get there, it reduces the time I can actually surf as my arms get knackered too quickly. So I choose to walk and this is not much fun as I generally end up dragging the bloody thing along the sand as my arms can no longer suffer carrying it. Then when I finally get there and out to the line up, I find, especially if the waves are not that flash, that I end up missing or being badly placed on the first few as I get used to going through the rigamarole of negotiating the pop up before I can enjoy a ride. Now I know, if this is your normal wave riding scenario it does not seem so, but if you ride a SUP and even more so a mat or any other form of prone craft it feels like a rigmarole when one is suddenly confronted with having to do so again.
So summarising, the SUP is a joy to get a round the bay on, then it is terribly easy to get on to the waves as one just paddles hard in to them and off one goes with a total body workout as a bonus. Jolly good show!
The 10' longboard is a hassle to get around the bay, hard to paddle in to the waves in comparison to a SUP and requires having to deal with the complexities of getting oneself standing and hopefully well placed on the wave before one is able to enjoy it. Then you have to drag the buggar back around the bay rather than enjoy a gentile paddle back like the SUP provides. Pain in the ass!
Obviously being a mat rider has similar advantages to a SUP as hiking around the bay with mat and fins in hand is a pleasure it matters little what the waves are like and one can enjoy a gentile walk back around the bay with mat and fins in hand.
I have been riding the SUP, a 10' 10" Walden, on and off for about 3 years and have been toying with the idea of getting a smaller one now that I have well and truly got the hang of it. I think this would result in my taking it out more often as I am thinking a Naish 9' 6" Mana which is shorter than my longboard. This may result in my forsaking the now rather antiquated need to pop up first mode of wave riding vehicle and restricting my wave riding practise to either the only prone or either already standing versions!

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

And you thought George Greenough was passionate about surf mats!

Do put any preconceived notions you may have aside and take the time to watch this video. MT demonstrates his obvious passion for surf mats providing a great explanation of how and why his work the way they do along with some great practical mat riding tips! Thanks to Wet Sand Surf Shop for putting together the 3 separate videos which I have edited together in to a single video for your further edification. Another big thanks to Tremor Temchin for putting me on to this.

Monday, December 12, 2011

Turbo TIme II in Slo-Mo - Part 2

Turbo Time II in Slo-Mo - Part 1

As I think the widest possible audience should get the opportunity to see this footage, I have split the original 22 minutes plus movie and created a couple of shorter versions that fit within YouTube's 15 minute time limit. Here is Part I and Part II is coming soon.
I have to strip the audio to make these so feel free to choose your own soundtrack and then sit back and enjoy!
If you would like a better quality copy of the original full length version to download for yourself email me at ramsnake53@gmail.com and I will share the DropBox folder containing it.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Turbo Time II in Slo-Mo!

As I mentioned in an earlier post, I have created a slo-mo version of Turbo Time II as I have done for a number of other mat riding movies that can be viewed at my YouTube site here. If you want to view this movie however, you are going to have to download it from my Dropbox. Bear in mind though, that it is 20 minutes long and around 850mb so you will need a decent broadband connection. Email me at ramsnake53@gmail.com and I will send you an invite to share the folder the movie is in.
Many thanks to MT for allowing permission to do so.

Yep, that's what riding a mat is all about!

Fun! Simple unadulterated fun!
Lauren and Crystal having a fat time on a death defying day at Backdoor in Hawaii!
Pic by Aussie camera guy Duncan McFarlane

Monday, December 5, 2011

Mat riding revelations!

Scored a session on the Tracker yesterday, in crap waves unfortunately but it was nice to be back in the water. But I had a little breakthrough, that I would like to share with you, that has further improved my duck diving. My routine up to this point has been to:
1. Make sure I am well forward on the mat
2. Grab the front corners
3. Squeeze hard
4. Bring my elbows in to concave the mat to reduce it's profile
5. Kick hard down and under the wave and finally
6. Move the mat forward in front of me so as to use it's buoyancy to pull me back up on the other side.
What I discovered yesterday, and these things are tending to happen without any forethought now, was that I was pulling the mat even further underneath myself than usual as I concaved it. This resulted in my effectively going through the wave head and shoulders first, reducing the impact of the mat's drag even more so before completing the manoeuvre as described above just as if I was a dolphin too? Not!
I have also been studying Mark Thomson's Turbo Time II video more closely and I have been particularly intrigued by how he appears to have his right hand resting in quite a relaxed fashion on the top of the mat while his left hand grabs huge chunks of mat material as he carves back up the face. I just had another quick look to make sure I wasn't imagining things and I also noted that on the less vigorous cutbacks he places his left hand in a similarly relaxed position seemingly to just maintain the shape of the front of the mat. It is the speed he gains that I find so fascinating and although I know that less is more on a mat, MT provides further compelling evidence of it's value as he gently assists the mat to retain its optimum shape without running the risk of overriding what it naturally wants to do. Ironically, he has mentioned recently that one needs to dominate the mat to get to the next level but clearly there is a fine line to tread. Perhaps assert is a better term than dominate?
This line of enquiry also led to my revisiting the marvellous riding guide that Paul Gross provides for all of you who have bought a mat from him. Accompanying all the useful information are some wonderful photos of GG, many of which are probably of the Lennox Head wave too, pulling off similar cutbacks, carves, drifts, lip bounces and speed runs.
Anyway, there is much to learn from watching this video as it shows clearly how these moves are achieved. I am in the process of creating a half speed slo-mo version to enhance further the details of what is going on as MT rides and, provided permission is given, I am keen to allow others access to it too. The quality is never as good as the original but I do have the HD version of the YouTube video so it will be the best I can make it. Access will be via my DropBox as it is nearly 900mbs in weight and too long to upload to YouTube!

Friday, December 2, 2011

Versatile, very versatile!

I was reflecting on the recent post relating to MT's grandson enjoying a session in ankle high waves in incredibly shallow water. As I reflected it occurred to me just how incredibly versatile a wave craft surf mats really are.

As a different rider on that very same mat can pull a move like this!

I'm trying to think of another wave craft that is capable of that same wide degree of performance! Can you?

Thursday, December 1, 2011

On a completely out of context topic!

Inspired by Prana and a couple of other mat riders, Michelle and I have been working on a vegetable growing project. We have pretty acid soil here up amongst the Karri trees so we have opted for garden beds which work just fine. I help with the heavy stuff and Michelle is the one who gets her hands dirty planting, weeding etc. All sorts of stuff in and coming along nicely. Feels a very good thing to do. Like mat riding!

It helps if you start learning to mat ride early!

One day my Grand Pa said lets go to the beach.
It was a sunny day and the water was warm
My POP gave me a funny looking thing to play with.
Here you go Jakey here is a Jelly Fish for you.
The Jelly Fish was all soft and wobbly
I played with the Jelly Fish in the water and it was fun.
Then Grand Pa said hop on that Jelly Fish and ride a wave with him.
But I was scared.
The big tube is coming to get me POP….. the big tube is coming to get me.
But POP just laughed and said its ok Jakey its only baby bubbles in here there’s no big tubes today.
Pop gave me a little push and I was zooming across the water
It was so much fun
I had the best day ever with my Grand Pa  and now I have a new best friend
My Jelly Fish
Thanks Grand Pa for teaching me to Surf

Thanks to Mark Thomson for the words and the wonderful photos of a little guy having a great time!