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.
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.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.
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 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.