13 November 2009

Guest Blogger #4: Pranaglider

The first time I met Pranaglider—now that I think of it, it was the only time we've met—I was in the OC meeting up with some other bloggers for a session. At that time, I'd still yet to see anyone on a mat before. So when he walked up to us holding a mat and fins, I swear I lost my mind on the spot. I literally started excitedly talking a mile a minute about mats, matting, the mat world, mat life, mat cupcakes and the like. It had never occurred to me that he'd been directed to meet us for the session. I just thought he'd magically appeared like a sign from above. Duh!

I've never quite known how to explain the thrill of catching a good wave on a mat. That might be because I haven't caught many good waves on my mat; I still suck at matting. However, I love everything about the mat. And when you see a great mat rider, it's a sight to behold. I'm still aspiring to be like Prana when I grow up!

So why the mat?

When I started surfing the surf craft progression went something like this.

First you had to beg your parents let you go out in the surf. If you didn't drown you eventually learned to body surf. Then you would badger your mom to rent you one of the blue canvas mats with the yellow bumpers. They were pumped up rock hard and seemed to be about a foot thick. You would try to swim/drag the thing out as far as you could and wait for a set. When the first walled up south swell close-out hit you and you took off like a shot, straight to the beach!

It was that perfect mixture of excitement, exhaustion, speed and being awfully sure you were about to die. When you survive the experience you were hooked for life! I was soon lured away by the siren song of the surf culture and surf boards. That little detour lasted 45 years. At least I got to ride some neat boards, meet some interesting people and travel to some exotic places. That and amazingly enough, I gained some perspective on the whole wave riding experience. Surfing is what we all do in the water. Choice of surf craft or the option of using no craft is purely incidental. Storms put some of there energy into waves that travel sometimes thousands of miles through water. We surfers all slide down the inclined plane of the energy wave as it approaches shore. It’s fun. It can be magical.

Riding a mat is something that doesn't lend itself to explicit descriptions or instructions. Everyone is free to experience and explore on their own and to find their own way. It's a lot like body surfing in that way. What can you really say? “Well you take off and sort of put your self in the pocket or 'power center' of the wave and you kind of react to the wave as it fluctuates around you and ahead of you.” Its a slowly learned progression with includes average days, good days, great days as well as periods of frustration punctuated by moments of such extreme euphoria that mat riders, once they get a season or two under their belts, will always have a mat in the quiver and many times devote themselves to the mat exclusively.

Why do it on a mat?

Since it’s all surfing, it comes down to personal preference. I have boards. I still surf boards when the urge strikes me. But the mat is just so much fun! The fins, the swimming. The gliding, just above the water! The tactile feel of really being IN the water.

Truly sublime.

OK, but aren’t surfboards the same thing? Maybe yes, maybe no. How many of your surfboards let you reshape them as you ride them? How many of them allow you to adjust the volume and flotation between waves? I love my boards—single fins, twins, tri fins quads and bonzers, longboards, shortboards and hulls of many descriptions. Riding the mat actually helps me see the specific niche each of the them fills.

For me, the craft I like the most needs to be inflated/created just before every go out.


At 11/13/09, 3:30 PM, Blogger gracefullee said...

That is a sweet wave! Prana, I can see why Surfsis got her mat obsession.

At 11/14/09, 1:47 PM, Anonymous Glenn Sakamoto said...

Great article! CR Stecyk and George Greenough are mat riders and they are pretty smart guys. More gray "mat"ter?...

At 11/16/09, 8:51 AM, Blogger pranaglider said...

I hope you enjoy my "guest post".

Mr Stecyk says that "Mat surfing is the fly fishing of wave riding"

At 11/16/09, 5:16 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

ok. but what's the difference between a mat and a boogie board? I'm not hating. I'm just asking.

At 11/16/09, 5:28 PM, Blogger Surfsister said...

I will let Pranaglider handle the answer to that question.

At 11/16/09, 6:54 PM, Blogger pranaglider said...

They are definitely different. I've ridden them but not enough to pass an expert opinion. But take a look at one. Can you vary the inflation / volume? Can you move the existing volume from rail to rail on the fly? Not to dis body boards at all but the mats seem so much more variable / configurable to me. If we are in the water some time let's trade for a few waves and you can see for yourself.


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