Wednesday, November 28, 2012

I ride surf mats too!

A response to Prana’s October post.
I wish I could remember why I happened to visit the Surfmatters blog around the beginning of 2010. Whatever it was, that first fleeting visit was the catalyst for a slowly rising awareness of the surf mat and it’s potential as an alternative for riding waves. Although I did not act upon that first visit initially, clearly it sowed a seed in my mind, because, sometime later, I did revisit PG’s blog and read a few of the more recent posts. This time round though, what I read must have had quite an impact as I remember plunging head first into it and reading every single post from the beginning. The very first of which was posted by MatMax at 6.43pm on September the 18th 2008 when 4GF surf mats looked like this!

It was a combination of what I had read about on Surfmatters, the contents of this post with a link to this first stunning video of Mark Thomson, that meant I was able to report that I had lashed out and bought a surf mat. Mainly because it seems that they are the fastest wave riding craft of all!!!

Unlike Prana, I seem to have lost my love of surfboards as I have little interest in looking at them anymore and the thought of actually standing up on a wave now really seems an odd thing to contemplate doing at all. Even after 10 years of fanatically riding boards, I can state now that I have had even more fun riding a surf mat because it is rare I have ever had a dud session. So I can only heartily agree with Prana that a surf mat must be the most advanced and adaptive craft for riding waves.
Talking about Prana, his blog 23 Breaths, was also a great influence in those early days as he wrote so eloquently about mat riding. Whilst researching the earlier posts on Surfmatters, I was interested to discover that Prana had posted on there also. Of course that led me to explore when he had decided that he had enough to say about mat riding to start his own blog. Well, it transpires that 23 Breaths kicked off in February the 11th 2008 at 12:21 pm well before Surfmatters so he was way ahead of the game but was obviously welcomed as a guest poster there too.
Prana has explained the practicalities of surfing a mat brilliantly so I will concentrate on what is it about this way of riding waves that has me so addicted to the experience. I do love the portability of mats though. No lugging bloody great boards up the beach in a high wind and even more challenging getting them back on the roof of the car safely without damaging them, myself or anybody else in the vicinity. So easy to get your gear to the beach and then back home again.
After thinking about this for some weeks since I first started this response, I finally feel like I have nailed what it is about mat riding that is particularly special for me.
Even though I have ridden pretty well every other craft that you can use to ride a wave, it is the feeling of oneness with the wave that is particularly special for me about riding a surf mat. It is like there is a seamless connection between the rider of the surf mat and the wave itself. So why is this so? I think there are a number of reasons.

1. The pliability of the mat that allows the rider to feel every nuance of a wave’s motion.

2. The feeling of being encompassed by the wave with one's head so close to the surface. On a big wave this can translate in to the slightly unnerving feeling that you are on the open hand of King Kong ready to have the life crushed out of you in an instant. Very moment focussing!!

3. The mat’s ability to match and move beyond the speed of the wave without apparent input from the rider. An extraordinary sensation that feels like one has tapped in to some hidden force.

4. That sensation only amplifies the feeling of oneness as the speed provides the rider with a beyond human experience as he or she feels like they are actually flying just above the surface of the ocean like a pelicans do so brilliantly.

5. That accomplishing a great ride on a surf mat depends upon letting go and allowing the mat to take charge. The rider only interfering in a very minimal way with dabs of the fins and touch up squeezes to make subtle changes to the shape of the mat.

6. If you are not a mat rider, it seems that observing a mat rider on a wave does not seem to be a very inspiring. I have often completed what I felt was just an extraordinary ride and looked to see if there were any reaction from others coming back out to the line up that might have observed it only to find there was no bubble of excitement. Clearly, there is something going within the confines of the mat rider’s world that seemingly magnifies that experience well beyond what the casual observer might see.

Prana quoted Antoine de Saint-Exupery.
“Perfection is achieved, not when there is nothing more to add, but when there is nothing left to take away.”
I love that but never having been a believer in the notion of perfection, I am bold enough to change one word, as I prefer it this way.
“Oneness is achieved, not when there is nothing more to add, but when there is nothing left to take away.”


  1. This is from a friend who is forwarded this GREAT blog by me...

    Riding a mat is most certainly only truly appreciated from the riders perspective. From a spectators view, it looks relatively fundamental and most people’s connection comes from a childhood experience with the blue/yellow monsters accompanied by a belly rash.

    Surfers have an especially hard time connecting due to the absence of dynamics and the sliding verses carving affect with the two mediums. What people need to understand is that with the exception of the wave itself, matting is a completely different sport and shouldn’t be compared to surfing. In addition, in your case, you are on a mat due to the physical limitations which prevent you from surfing. I’m just happy that you are still in the water and with your friends.

    1. Well said Henry!!
      Another great post Robin....thanks!