Sunday, September 30, 2012

Damn, that makes me feel good!

I received the following email this week and it really did help to confirm that the time I spend posting here is worthwhile.

Love your matting blog. It inspired me to buy a surf mat a few weeks ago (4GF Fatty). 
Find myself re-reading your blog entries after a surf to learn more. Your early experiences on the mat mirror my experiences in recent times.
Have made a vow to stick at it at least until I've experienced 3rd gear. 
Take it easy.
Steve (Sydney)

I know, I know, I shouldn't really need to get this sort of direct pat on the back as the blog is currently getting 500+ visits a week. Clearly it is servicing a need, but, it does warm the cockles of the old ticker when I do get one, so thanks Steve. Your unsolicited email was most welcome and I am absolutely rapt that my early experiences are helping you out. Particularly so, as much of the reason for starting the blog was because of the lack of information/discussion of how to go about this mat riding business when I was in the same place you are now!

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

A Mat Riding Tip from Jakey!

Ramsnake was right when he stated in this post that it wouldn't be long before I was out the back on my own. Well, here I am! 
One of the common questions Pop gets is "Where are the handles on a mat and how do I attach a leash?" Well the answer is: "The handles are anywhere you want them to be as the modern lightweight soft fabrics make it easy to hang on without the need for a leash or handles." 
Here are some photos of me using 3 different grab and handle techniques as I go it alone and charge and hey - even if I say so myself; take it to the next level! It must be easy if a 4 year old like me can do it. All that time on the front of the mat with Pop is paying off. My timing and ability to read the waves is incredible now considering I am so young. The mat has really helped me to learn all this as I can feel what the wave is doing through it. 
Do I look stoked or not! 

Friday, September 21, 2012

Another little gem or two from Tim

One of the aspects of being a mat rider that I am particularly fond of is that the mat riding world is filled with such a gamut of interesting, creative and often slightly eccentric characters. It looks like Tim Ciasto falls easily into this category. Here is a guy that clearly lives life to the full without taking himself too seriously. You can see it in his face. I think many of you might agree that this is a prerequisite for anybody thinking of taking up mat riding seriously. 
I think all of us first became aware that Tim had joined the mat riding community when a terrific little standing wave video surfaced. I decided to edit out everybody else except Tim and posted it here
Now Tim and his missus, Christina, have created another gem of a video and it was the appearance of this that inspired me to find out a little more about the man.

Having made some rather arbitrary assumptions about Tim above, I was pleasantly surprised to find out I was probably on the money as he and his wife are prolific bloggers about all things inspirational! Mat riding of course, being one of those inspirational things. It was searching through their blog for mat riding posts that I stumbled across the wonderfully quirky image of Tim striding down the beach with mat under arm! Of course I had to use Google Translate to find out what the post spoke about with the following most amusing result.
Lying on his back in the water and I am doing something to blow the black before me. Incredulous I see a couple of surfers bobbing far from me in the water and wait for the next wave. I smile at them friendly, which is reciprocated with questioning looks and smile."What does the guy there with the white beard?" It is my surfer colleagues in his face. What am I doing here? I'm here to surf and extremely fun to have! However, I have to ride off no surfboard, but an air mattress to the waves. Anyone who thinks that this is the same as a boogie board, a short plastic board that you surf lying on his stomach, is totally wrong. While I surf my little black air mattress lying on his stomach, but this requires a totally different approach. It works best when it is not inflated plump, but still a little limp. If I succeed with my fins to paddle a little wave the mattress beneath me awake to life and speeds as fast as I'm not used to from my surfboards. I fly along the shaft wall and now I'm the one who has to grin. The cool thing is that I have with the mattress for longer and can continue browsing to the shallowest water. Yeah! When paddling back to the others I am questioned by a surfer on my mattress. My counterpart smiles when I explain that it is actually a limp air-filled mattress. This thing is just a toy, and who consequently in the water rumtollt that you can not really take seriously. One thing is certain, it is definitely not real surfing! I do not care of it and make me take it to the next wave. As I'm flying along the shaft wall, am like a little kid and think, "No real Surfing is a lot of fun!"
I am a sucker for descriptions of mat riding and I think in this case that Google Translate adds a wonderful element of quirkiness! I am confident that Tim is the sort of guy who will be unoffended and probably more than a little amused with Google's work himself.
I have a mat riding tip for you Tim. I reckon you would benefit from dropping your chin on to the mat more often to develop the speed to get through to the next section.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Dale Solomonson

Seeing as Dale is unfortunately crook again, I decided it was time for a feature post on this longtime, brilliantly innovative and dedicated member of the mat riding community.
Nobody would dispute the fact that Dale was a trailblazer and responsible for much of the design innovation of the modern surf mat.
He revolutionised the performance of them with his discovery of and implemention of polyurethanes and military-spec nylon deniers in their construction in the 80's. This resulted in the ultra light and extremely supple mats that we enjoy today.

This is a distillation of Dale's description of the surf mats he makes.
  • Improved speed, sensitivity, manoeuvrability, durability and very light weight.
  • Unique high speed, adaptable cornering and surprising auto-acceleration.
  • Outstanding performance in ideal waves and excellent in choppy, flatter surf.
  • Uniquely capable of rapidly pulling in to and through critical sections with little rider input.
  • Fastest and most fun means of riding waves on "unsurfable" twisted days when no one else is out.
  • It's like having an independent suspension system for your body and will often go faster over bumps and chop!
  • The least rider effort yields the highest degree of performance.
If you haven't already done so and want to learn more about Dale then do please do yourself the favour of reading this comprehensive article penned by KenDog.
The quality of Dale's mats shows that he is clearly a mastercraftsman but that is not all he is. That they were often spectacular looking mats show he is also an intensely creative and emotional soul.

As does one of my favourite descriptions of riding a mat that he penned:
"It`s nearing dusk, and you're airborne on takeoff, drifting down the face of a newly discovered secret wave. As your craft finally touches the surface and begins to find its line, you roll into a long, smooth fade to the left, toward the strange, angled base of this thickening maul. At the outer edge of your vision you see the peak thrusting itself skyward. As the shadow of the lip passes overhead, you quickly straighten and aim deep for the bottom. There is silence in the moment before impact, and then heavy thunder lands close to your left.
But looking away, your focus is on the oddly swirling water just ahead. The surface pulls tight, pouring off the shelf to meet the incoming wave. At the last possible second you twist completely over on the inside rail, banking so far to the right that you can`t see much of anything, straining to raise your head as a powerful unseen force drives you firmly into the deck, and the tightening arc of your turn throws you over the watery glaze of the reef and back up across the face.
Your grip relaxes as you level out, skimming across the vertical upper third of the inward-bending wall. Far ahead, the inside bowl rises ominously, stretching out, the wave growing larger and thicker than it was when you first caught it. Now is the time to let go, pressing down, unwinding at full power, the soft chattering of your craft changes to a whispering hiss, as you strain into the highest possible line.
You wonder if this might be what a seabird feels as it soars across a wave sensing invisible pathways to maximum speed.
Fast approaching the inside section, turbid boils and broken kelp hint the end is near. Without prompting, your vehicle accelerates, descending toward the surging base, falling deeper into the coiling hole. Lightly textured backlit bluegreen hues become dark oily slick and hard. As if trapped in a slow motion dream, you watch the massive roof of the tube heave itself outward and far ahead. Racing higher again you flatten and lean closer, nearly pulled off by the uprushing wall.
Surprised and amazed by the mysterious draw of the building momentum your grip tightens instinctively. You've never ridden anything, anywhere, this fast. Streaking toward your wave's last escape portal time finally slows to a single moment. And just before the opening winks shut you look back at your spiralling, shimmering track, swallowed by the swirling darkness, and surrender to the unnerving suspicion that this mat of yours is somehow... surfing itself!" 
I first contacted Dale back in September 2010 to ask him to make me an Advanced 200/70 Neumatic and it arrived pretty quickly in November of that year. I celebrated the occasion with a 2nd unboxing video.

I struggled with the Neumatic at first and spoke about my experiences in this post. Being the generous character he is, Dale of course responded most helpfully via email which I posted about here. I was most amused by his "Don't be a stiffy" comment!
Dale, I, and I am sure all other surf mat riders, bow in respect to you and wish you a speedy recovery.

Monday, September 17, 2012

Thursday, September 13, 2012

The New Voit Duck Feet Fins Review

After todays session, I am so impressed with the changes that Greg Deets has made to this already great pair of fins.
As I mentioned in the postscript to this post, as soon as I touched one I could feel the dramatic difference in the composition of the rubber. So I knew immediately that they were likely to be way more comfortable than the previous model. I also pondered at the same time how this might change the effectiveness of an already satisfactorily efficient fin.
I can now confirm their improved comfort and that their ability to transfer the kicking action into propulsion forwards is measurably improved and yet the effort to do so seems less.
So a terrific result and I can only recommend that you get your hands on a pair as soon as you can.
I am now also champing at the bit to get my hands on a pair of UDTs once they become available in my size again.

I have also modified this new pair of fins to control the Shark Shield's antenna, but chosen to do so a little differently as the composition of the rubber is softer. I drilled a hole that was just big enough to allow the cable tie through as I prefer that it is held firmly in place.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

The Shark Shield Review

No, not a review of Shark Shield's actual effectiveness, hopefully that day will never come, but how I have come to terms with and adapted it to suit mat riding.
I had my first session using it on Sunday at the old home break as conditions are still a bit iffy here at the bay. I really just wanted to find out if it would impact negatively on the mat riding experience so I just whacked it on my right ankle and hit the the waves which were not too bad for awhile. A little technical information first for your edification.

Shark Shield emits a protective electrical field via its antenna. The unique wave form elliptical field only affects free swimming sharks and to a minor degree rays and skates. The field generated by the Shark Shield is detected by the shark through its sensory receptors known as Ampullae of Lorenzini, situated on the snout of all predatory sharks. The unique and unfamiliar pulsing sensation emitted by the Shark Shield does not replicate that given off by a fish and does not attract sharks to an area.

Battery pack lifeNominal 300 charges
Storage TemperatureBetween 0C – 60C (32F – 140F)
Operating TemperatureBetween 12C – 40C (53.6F – 104F) Lower temperatures will reduce the operating time
Dimensions of Main Unit (without Antenna)80mm L x 140mm W x 35mm H (3.15” x 5.51” x 1.5”)
Maximum Operating Depth45 meters (148 feet)
Weight (unit only)335 grams (11.8 oz)
Dry Weight (Complete)950 grams (2.09lb)
Unit Operating Time6-7 hours
In water weight (Complete)69 grams (2.4oz)
Protective Field Strength

As you have probably noted, on dry land, the whole caboodle including power module and antenna weighs in at a fairly hefty 950 grams (2.09 lbs). So, initially, I was a little concerned I was going to feel like I had a lead weight on my leg and that I was dragging a large bit of rope along as well. However, I was heartened by the additional information that the weight of the power module itself was only 335 grams (11.8 ounces) and that in the water the displacement weight of the whole unit including the antenna drops dramatically to 69 grams (2.4 ounces).
I am able to report that although I was aware I had something extra at the end of my leg, I pretty well forgot about it pretty quickly except for when the antenna would touch my ankle and give me a momentary less than pleasant electronic massage. This occurred rather more often than I would be willing to put up with in the long term so some measure to resolve this was needed. Coincidentally and ultimately contributing to the resolution of this measure, a SUP rider happened to turn up at the break also and blow me down if he didn't have a Shark Shield onboard too! I happened to mention that the bloody thing kept booting me and he told me that he had seen divers run the antenna through a hole in their fins in order to alleviate this tendency.

So, today, preferring not to drill a hole in one of my Duck Feet, I whizzed down to the local hardware store before I hit the beach and purchased a couple of 4.8 mm cable ties as I preferred the idea of a loose fitting guide to control the movement of the antenna whilst still allowing it plenty of free movement as I kicked. Keeping in mind the important fact that the shield only works effectively whilst submerged, I used the knife to slice a small cut through the outside top vertical of one of my Duck Feet and with difficulty fed the cable tie through. 
Placing the tie here means that when I am lying on a mat the antenna should remain submerged under the fin and pretty effectively out of the way when I am kicking as it has a tendency to sink. I was able to test the modification as I enjoyed a pleasant and cautiously comfortable little right alone until a couple of local longboarders eventually joined me. It took them a little while to notice what I was wearing and they were rather happy with the fact and keen to keep in close company with me.
"What's that you ask?"
"Oh, yes of course. You want to know if the modification worked?"
Yep, it sure did resulting in a dramatic reduction in the number of times I received a boot. Twice only in fact, which I can happily put up with, so it looks like the shield will become a permanent part of this South Coast of Oz surf mat rider's kit!
Postscript: Interestingly, I just received a pair of the new Voit Duck feet fins. As soon as I pulled one out of the box it was immediately apparent how much softer and pliable they are going to be. They are going to be far easier on the old tootsies and it will be very interesting to compare their performance with my current pair. I am going to have to apply the cable tie modification to one of them first though!

Saturday, September 8, 2012

Surf mags? They just don't seem relevant anymore!

Yesterday, I accompanied Michelle in to town so as she could get a haircut. I went along as I just needed to get out of the house and intended to mooch around the main street until she had been shorn. In this situation in the past, I have always headed straight to the newsagency to check out the surf magazines. I am on the lookout to pick up the latest edition of The Surfer's Path or Surfing World, the best quality of the Aussie mags. Well, they were both there but as I flicked through them I realised they just didn't seem relevant anymore. Even though I still enjoy watching the WCT events live when they are on, I seem to have lost my interest in reading about that style of surfing. So, I went out of the store empty handed and bemoaning the fact that there is no magazine titled "Surf Mat Rider" :-(
Well, not at this point in time anyway. Wink, wink nudge, nudge!
When I got home, my disappointment was a little assuaged as I amused myself using a great little Photoshop alternative for the Mac, Pixelmator, to clean up this pic of Daniel Thomson at Swami's from January this year. I think I managed to give his goatee a bit more authority! He was out there surfing one of his old man's mats with mates Taylor Knox and Rob Machado, who also happens to own a surf mat.

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Riding the Freight Train!!!

Freight trains is a super fast break on Maui that legendary lensman Jason Hall likes to visit and often there are very few others around when he chooses to do so. This is because most surfers don't bother with it unless it's 2x overhead as the video depicts.
Before his recent move to Maui, Jason lived in Newport Beach in California and was responsible for posting thousands of images of surfers from that area on his blog. They included this epic shot of Prana that I am sure all of you have admired at one time or another.

As far as I know the first time Jason ever rode a mat was on one that he borrowed on the day he shot this footage at the now legendary August 2010 Cottons Mat Meet.

This experience must have sowed a seed as Jason recently added one of PG's mats to his quiver. Here is his description of riding it at Freight Trains on one of those smaller, less crowded days. If you are at all interested in knowing how to ride barrels on a mat, then the following description is a must read. Apart from being most instructive, it also makes you feel like you are in there with him!

"The reef at Freights has a couple sections, but for now I'm just talking about the end section that starts just after the "tombstone" (large rock usually poking up in the impact zone). 
The end section needs a wide swinger for a good wall that will ultimately run off into deep water.  
So in order to be able to outrun the lip, setting up the takeoff is critical. 
You don't drop straight in and bottom turn. You have to start at an angle, already pointing down the line. 
I usually use the takeoff method with the mat out infront of me, the only part of my body on the mat are my hands to my elbows. 
I'm laid out flat behind the mat kicking. This allows you to get on the wave sooner than if you were on the mat with all your body. 
Once you catch the wave, you pull yourself onto the mat, you're already finessing the twisting of the nose, using the ribs in the tail to assist with holding the line combined with the right fin slightly in the water..not dragging too much. 
Now you've made it to the bottom, holding on to as much speed as possible, maintaining projection, and lining back up into the hook. 
This is where it gets tricky, cause now you're really hauling ass and one small screwup will cost you the wave, there's really no time to correct. 
The wave will blow you by. 
Now is where the hand-fin is used. 
Right hand into the face along right hip, left hand pulling up the left front of the mat, right hip pressure down on tail, and right fin engaged. 
I use the Viper MS models that don't have the pronounced ribs like the regular Vipers, and I've learned to lean the body alittle which will put the fin into the wave at an angle creating better control.
At this point, you're locked in, absorbing the small chop created by the howling offshore winds that are blowing from the valley. 
You're probably hooting at the top of your lungs, taking in the speed sensation and the view of the finely chiseled wave face bending down the reef. 
Now the wave fades off into the deep water and the end of the reef. You're pulsing from the adrenaline, out of breath from the excitement, and kicking back out around the shoulder for the next one."

Jason reckons this spot would make an epic "mat meet" wave.
Hands up any takers!

Monday, September 3, 2012

From Da Bolt!

Hi Mate

Had a GREAT mat wave at Moruya breakwall on Saturday.
The local longboarders could not believe two old dudes coming out and ripping these classic waves apart on mats..
When I arrived there with Adam it was so cold. He did not want to come out not matter how much I called him a sooky cry baby…even telling him to “harden up” we are matmen did not work he elected to take some piccies which was a bit of good luck.
We had already been out for a kneeboard surf earlier on, but these waves screamed out for a mat.
I could hear my “vespa” calling me…take me.. take me…so I was in like a “Bolt” out of the blue.
Here is a sequence shot of the wave that convinced Adam he should… toughen up …put on a cold wet sandy steamer…and be out with me having fun.
You will note I have still not learnt how not to “Man Handle “ the roundtail…but she told me she likes being treated hard..such an understanding mat. We stayed out until hypothermia set in then it was off to the pub for a hot meal and even hotter coffee.
Piccies…the wave....take off into the offshore breeze..turning onto the wall…ripping another turn…ooops ripped it right off the face…into the barrel…back out again……….. me going in with my duckfeat…
Hope you enjoy..have a look at Adams latest link/blog site thing and you can see heaps more stuff.