What's Up With Surfmats?
|(Above): World manufacturing headquarters of Neumatic Surfcraft (circa 2004)|
|Modern surf history is written by whoever is writing things at any given moment. This swings wide and wild like a pendulum run amok, from the arrogant gibbering foolishness of a shorty surf mag to frequently transcendent surf journalism in The Surfer's Journal. There is a reason collectors value surf magazines from the 1960's and 1970's and virtually ignore anything past that. But that's another story...
As bodyboarding vanished as a threat to contemporary surfing with the advent of the surf school and the massive influx of newcomers by 2004, surfmats seemed to have picked up some target circles from the masses of angry sheep. This seems incomprehensible given the low numbers of mat riders. Most surfers have never even seen anyone on a mat. But mat surfing does vary from the standard issue wave wriding vehicle.
So what's up with this surfmat thing? Is it merely a bunch of geezers longing for the past?
I'm in the "summing up" phase of life here at vagabondsurf.com before I turn out the lights. I owe only the truth and a bit on the old credit card. Surfing realities are always subjective, so there may be more than one right answer. This is my perspective.
10,000 flies can't be wrong...truly they never are. But if you want to do something different you have to dare to be different. It's fairly addicting, and is part of the original thrill of surfing. I live in the same town I basically grew up in. After thirty five years there are more surfers living within 2 blocks of me now than we had in my entire high school of 2000 people! I don't even live at the beach, either.The thrill isn't gone, but it's become pretty hard to see.
Riding a surfmat is unlike any other form of waveriding. Dale Solomonson likens it to assisted bodysurfing (my words)...really it's like "rocket assisted" when the situation is right. It's a hard thing to do. Few others do it. Most who do have mats are openminded, experienced wave riders with lots of years of surfing behind them. For people like this surfmats are in many ways a chance to restart the circle. Other are so new to surfing they still have open minds...hmmm...can standup surfing close as many doors as it opens? You bet your ass.
What you can get from mat surfing in 2005 is the chance to be part of something very wild and exciting that few others in the entire world do, and fewer still do it well. It is like surfing was in the early 1950's. If you saw another mat rider you would stop the car and pretty much be sure of the other person being happy to meet you as well. You can't buy that experience in the standup surfing world for love or money anywhere on earth at this point. Adventure is still to be found.
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