The surf mat is an ingenious little tool that lets you ride with your eyes close to the water and feel the waves like never before. Not only is it much lighter and cheaper than a surfboard, but it provides a completely different surfing experience.
What are Surf Mats?
Surf mats are inflatable mats used to ride the waves. It’s like levitating above the surface of the water.
The first surf mat was invented in 1932 by an Australian physician named Ernest Smithers. It was just 20 inches wide and less than 3 feet long. A year later, the “surf o plane” was patented and hit the Australian market, eventually becoming commonplace on beaches across the country.
In the 1960s, surf mats experienced their heyday when beachgoers sought a cheap and easy way to have fun on those long summer days.
How Do You Ride a Surf Mat?
Surf mats are ridden in a prone position. Simply lie on your stomach with your arms by your side and head for the waves.
To get the most out of your mat surfing exploits, put on a pair of bodysurfing fins, grab your surf mat, and follow these steps:
- Inflate your surf mat so that it is around 60%. You should be able to bend it at between 45 and 90 degrees.
- Paddle out to the waves using both your legs and arms.
- Duck dive by tucking your elbows, squeezing the front corners of the surf mat, and shooting into the wave head-first.
- Keep your head down, shift your body forward, extend your arms fully by your sides, and kick your fins.
- When you take off, bend your knees, quickly move your body forward, and press your chin to the front of the surf mat.
- Turn the mat using your fins and hips.
Surf mat riding is different to anything else that you might have experienced on the water. There are some similarities to boogie boards and even bodysurfing, but you’ll need to adapt your techniques if you’re coming from these disciplines.
Best Brands and Mats for Mat Surfing
Surf mats are inexpensive and there are a number of great brands producing high-quality mats.
The quality of a surf mat is ultimately determined by the materials and the shape. It should provide a balance between strength and flexibility while also using a good sealant and accounting for the weight of the rider.
Some of the best surf mats out there right now include:
MT5 Surf Mat from Krypt Surf Technology
Krypt is an Australian company at the very cutting edge of surf mat development. The Krypt MT5 Surf Mat is an evolution of a design that has been over a decade in the making. It was developed by surf mat pro Mark Thomson and is designed to be used by professionals.
It’s strong, durable, and lightweight. The only downside is that it’s expensive. The MT5 is currently listed on the Krypt website for $195 (adult) and $175 (junior).
G-Mat 5 Star General by Custom Surfmats
Custom Surfmats make mats that are designed to suit the individual needs of the mat surfer.
The G-Mat 5 Star General is one of the brand’s stand-out creations and is available in several different sizes. It includes an elastic rocker and is handmade. The downside is that mat surfers will need to wait a little longer to get their hands on the G-Mat as it is made to order.
Surf’s Up Inflatable Surf Mat by Intex
A very low-cost surf mat that is fun to ride and can be enjoyed by beginner and experienced surfers alike.
The Intex surf mat is made of 12-gauge vinyl, has a high weight limit, and comes with a repair kit just in case. All of this is available for less than $30 from Amazon.
Vespa Roundtail by Fourth Gear Flyer Surfmats
The Vespa Roundtail from Fourth Gear Flyer is a premium surf mat that is handmade to the highest standard. It’s pliable, durable, and very light, making for an unforgettable wave riding experience.
Mat surfers of all levels can enjoy this one.
The only real downside is that all of the boards seem to be handmade by a man named Paul Gross, and they are not as widely available as some of the other mats on this list. Also, at the time of writing, they have gone on hiatus to fill a backlog of orders caused by the pandemic.
Still, if you can find an afford a Vespa Roundtail surf mat, we recommend adding it to your shopping list.