It's about life - not "lifestyle"
What's all this surf mat talk about, you may wonder.  Why do online surfing forums periodically erupt into polarized enthusiasm/outrage fortresses? Why do an increasing number of experienced surfers find themselves trying out a piece of equipment which basically was killed by the advent of the bodyboard?

Elsewhere in we ran a photo essay that ended with the vague statement "Are you ready for the surf mat challenge?". Contemporary custom mat builder Dale Solomonson even wrote to ask what I meant by that one. Truth is it was something that just popped out. What the hell is "the Surf Mat Challenge" anyway?
My personal theory is that many surfers with years of experience are looking for something new to try. Older surfers have the genetic memory of surf mats from the 60's and earlier. Things from youth are usually remembered fondly, so they have a fairly good word association.

The old canvas mats were real buggers, though. They were big, heavy blobs which took your skin off like a surform, especially coupled with sand. When bodyboards came along in the form of the original Morey Boogie, mats vanished. A few people like George Greenough and Paul Gross, along with various Santa Barbara and Australian friends, kept at them. There was a Surfer's Journal article a couple of years ago by Paul Gross with contributions by the other main players which details that in more depth.

That article, however, really seemed to generate a new interest in mats. The timing corresponds with the longboard explosion and perhaps more germane the massive influx of women and surf schools in urban areas. My personal belief is that the surfing tidal wave of the past 4 years matches or exceeds the fad of the early 60's. Add in the leash and coastal development in the U.S. at least and you have already crowded resources doubled or tripled, and clamped down together like in a pressure cooker.

Simply put, a lot of people started taking a look at alternatives.
As far as alternatives go, it's hard to beat a 16 ounce inflatable surfcraft which takes up less space than a tennis racket. Would you rather do this or take up golf? You don't need a monsterous vehicle to get you places, airlines can't charge you a damn thing to take it aboard, you can get two state-of-art mats for the price of one surfboard, on and on.

What you have to do though is open yourself up to something completely different. Ask yourself, what really new thing is on the regular surfing horizon? Tow-in isn't for the masses. Is your surfing experience going to run down into a matter of different airbrush jobs, or perhaps...?

The surf mat challenge.
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