Matting—You Need More of it in Your Life
This is one of my mantras for 2013. I didn't get a chance to ride my surf mats much last year. The broken ankle gets all of the credit for that. Even after I was allowed back in the ocean, my ankle and foot were still too swollen for a swim fin. The mat riding highlight of the year, for me, was the Paipo Stokefest down in San Diego.
The ocean, that day, was quite generous to the prone-riding tribe. That's why I came dragging out of the water the way I did. I literally had nothing left.
What did I get the rest of the year in terms of riding my mat? A rock.
I've vowed to put the mat on equal footing with my boards in 2013. Thus far, I've taken my mat out twice. The first time was at the home break. I rode a board, got disgusted with the conditions rather quickly and then switched to the mat. The mat really does save a session. The mat will provide when a board just won't work.
During this session, the tide started sucking out quickly. I had fun on my board for about half an hour. Then, the tide ruined everything. I still wanted to be in the water. I switched over to the mat. Session saved!
A couple of days ago, Glenn and I took mats to a spot that was welcoming the arrival of the recent swell. The waves weren't as cooperative as we would have liked. This spot, which normally delivers a nice shoulder, wasn't feeling very well. The waves weren't as tame as we know them to be. Glenn would later say "I got my mat handed to me!" Yeah, it was a bit of a tough session. We both got rides, but we had to work for them. Getting caught on the inside with a mat is almost an exercise in futility.
I actually don't mind mat sessions like this. I'm a big believer in paying one's dues. I think I've said that many times on this blog. If everything is handed to you on a silver platter, you lose the ability to appreciate the value of hard work and experience. A session like that one allows you to make some deposits in your fitness bank. If nothing else, I got a good workout, one that will payoff when I get the mat on some decent waves.
Surfing used to be a counterculture activity. Now? Surfing is about as mainstream as a thing can be. Everyone wants to be associated with surfing . . . except for black folks. If you're black and you say you surf, people say, "Oh really?". Of course, that means, "I know you fell down and hit your head, thus giving you delusions of some kind since everybody knows that black people don't surf!"
Anyway, surfing is, in my mind, what everybody does. It's what everybody aspires to do. People in other parts of the country want to come to California, learn to surf, get famous, be cool, get rich and stay here. (By the way, it's terribly crowded here. There are deadly sharks in the water. Everyone you meet is mean. Your new car will certainly be stolen the day after you bring it home, if you even get it that far. I don't think moving to California is the best idea. In other words, as the bumper sticker says, "Welcome to California. Now go home!")
Anyway, one of the things that draws me to the mat is that it's different. It's the same thing that draws others to paipos and handplanes. You want counterculture? Try riding a wave from a position of equality. By that I mean, get yourself down to the wave's level; stop thinking the best and only place to experience a wave is from above it. You haven't seen a wave until you've seen it from its base, slowly forming into a literal wall of water. You haven't ridden a wave until you've felt its energy—in your core, in your shoulders, in your legs. Surfing a board separates you from the ocean in some ways. Riding a mat allows you to feel that energy. The mat is molding itself to the wave beneath it and the person on top of it. Your fins and legs are in the water doing their best to help you steer.
I just can't articulate how different the mat experience is from surfing. Granted, I surf more than I ride a mat. I love my surfboards. I actually find it fascinating that my best surfboards were designed by the man who makes my mats. There's something to that, I think.
I say all of this to say that I will be on my mat more this year. No more broken bones. No more catastrophes. I'll get another set of fins. I'll spend more time with my mat tribe.
Yes. It's on!