Saturday, February 16, 2008

Niche dedication...

A record of efforts spent in relative obscurity but resulting in exceptional beauty for the lucky discoverer. From Sway's:

Year Built: 30 years

Dale Solomonson
Manufacturer: Dale Solomonson
Location: Pacific Northwest

A while back I was photographing a few of the surfmats which I`ve made over the last 30 years, having found them scattered around under dust and tucked away in my shop`s loft. In addition to my old ones, examination of the photos reveals two new surfmats: one is black/yellow (Warren Pfeiffer of Yamba, NSW) and the other is black/black (Kenny Hughes of Santa Barbara, CA). Both feature rocker and rotary valves.

In contrast, two other mats in the pics are very old and completely thrashed: a yellow DuPont Hypalon large wave design (15' to 18') and a white Naugahyde mat. Both represent two phases of my matworks from the 1970`s through about 1980. In addition to thin sheets of Hypalon and Naugahyde, I was also experimenting with pure rubber, PVC and neoprene.

Each new surfmat project was taking me about 30 to 40 hours of labor (not counting design time), and just prior to my 1982 discovery and initial experiments with the original "Hero" mat`s heatseal nylon/PU fabric, average construction time had been trimmed to "only" 20 hours!

One of the most exciting things about those early surfmat projects was that I`d successfully lowered their overall weight (yet increased the overall strength) from about 7 or 8 lbs. for a typical rubber and canvas raft, to 5 lbs. for the mats I was making by the latter 1970`s. As can be imagined, going from 8 lbs. to 5 lbs. was an improvement, especially in terms of sensitivity... but to go immediately from 5 lbs. to less than 16 ounces... well, that was literally a dream come true!

After I made George Greenough`s first military green "Hero" mat in the winter of 1982-83, an entirely new chapter in high performance mat surfing began to unfold, with radical changes occurring in design, materials, and fabrication. The results were significant gains in overall speed, handling and response... an endlessly fascinating process which continues to the present day."

I have found the new Mat to be a wonderful tool/toy. It looks so silly, but senses are chattering! If you haven't tried it, you must!

I saw a lone surfer jogging down a beach trail today, bag rolled up, duckfeet in hand. The second Mat rider I've ever seen in my county. I was driving by and had the urge to stop, run to catch him and then... What would I say? Why? Let it be evidence of the human condition- we love to share a treasured secret.


pranaglider said...

regarding contacting the "other mat rider" you saw. It's just like the 50's. Small club lots of fun. When I rejoin the living we have to have a go out.

KYScoast said...

What cool post. I've never read anything, anywhere revealing so much detail concerning what goes into surf mat design/construction. A mat like those you show are what I rode my first wave on in about 1958. Yeah on one of those, that's where the pure joy of the glide began for me, the first "thing" I ever rode. I had totally forgotten until I saw the photo in your post of the gathered mats. What a fine memory. Many thanks!

asmith said...

PG- I like the comparison to surfers in the 50's. We should arrange a little SoCal mat meet. It might be kind of fun to play "bumper boogie!"

Kys- Dale is the real deal. The mats he's making are a lot different than those old canvas/rubber ones. You should give it a go on one of his current mats.