Frequently asked questions
Can I attach a leash to my mat?
Yes and no…but mostly no!
Leashes need an anchor point on a mat. And logically, that would be a grommet (or multiple grommets) installed along the mat’s flange. The problem is that, sooner or later, any grommet is going to pull through the fabric and probably ruin the mat. This is true whether you use a leash, or a perimeter rope like the old rental rafts.
And, if you reinforce the area of the flange where a grommet is installed, it shifts the potential damage away from the flange and further into the mat’s structure.
The other issue is the awkward nature of using wrist leashes…which are usually intended for body board use. Ideally, both hands should be free to hang onto the front corners of the mat to control it while riding a wave. Having a leash attached to your wrist interferes with that riding technique.
We’ve installed grommets on mats for individuals who absolutely have to use a leash for health reasons. Those customers also fully understood and accepted the risks of using a leash to the long term durability to their mat.
So far, the best approach we’ve found has been multiple grommets along the rear flange, and a bungee-cord harness system (with the leash attached to one of their ankles) to help diffuse the loading on the grommets in a wipeout.
In a nutshell, we discourage adding leash grommets to 4GF mats, but will entertain the concept in extreme situations. But…using a leash on a mat as a convenience is a mistake…mats are easy to hang onto in the water!
What are the dimensions of the 4GF models?
We discourage discussion about mat dimensions for a number of reasons…
The primary reason is that the numbers can’t be correlated with the dimensions of body boards, paipo boards, or surfboards. What might seem long or short, or thick or thin, or wide or narrow on a surfboard, may be ideal on a mat. No matter how much experience a surfer has designing and riding conventional surfboards, that knowledge doesn’t transfer to mats easily. Mats are a different animal!
A second reason is that variations which seem small on a surfboard (say, adding ¼” of width at the wide point) are enormous on a mat. Since mats are essentially cube shaped, an increase or decrease in one dimension is expressed equally along the entire length or width of a mat…and so it adds a tremendous amount of volume.
A third reason is that the dimensions of a mat vary wildly according to the level of inflation during a given session in the water. A partially deflated mat is wider and thinner than the same mat which is fully inflated. And since mats are intended to be ridden at fluctuating levels of inflation based on the rider and the wave conditions, there is no concrete point of reference to judge one mat with another.
How long will my mat last?
With even the tiniest bit of luck, a 4GF mat will outlast all but the heaviest glassed long boards.
Most likely, the only situations that can surely ruin a mat are leaving it inflated in a hot car, losing it extremely windy conditions, or aggressively riding up onto a rocky shoreline or over shallow coral. But those are relatively easy circumstances to avoid.
With proper care (like repairing small tears immediately, rinsing them off after a surf, and storing them out of the sun) 4th Gear Flyer surf mats are a very good return on a modest investment. We have heard from people who are still riding 25 year old 4GF’s…and today’s models are even more durable!
Can you duck dive a mat?
Yes…but not nearly as effectively as a body board or a paipo board.
It takes some experience to get a feel for how to get through a set of broken waves on a mat -- any mat -- especially if the swell is over 5 or 6 feet. In the beginning, a mat will seem like a handful to deal with in the soup. But over time, the advantages of being on a mat in the lineup begin to reveal themselves. Mats are comfortable and safe to be on, and they are relatively easy to hang onto. And, in larger surf, if you are driven underwater in the impact zone, you can wrap your arms and legs around the mat, and it will rocket you to the surface the instant the energy of the wave begins to dissipate.
Performance-wise, how do 4th Gear Flyers compare to other mats?
Obviously we can’t be objective about that question. All we can say is 4GF mats have been around since 1984, and they are built and tested by some of the best mat riders in the world. Our own performance demands outstrip anyone else’s in the water, and we seize every opportunity to improve the design and construction of our mats.
I’ve never used swim fins…what kind should I get?
The best sporting equipment to compare swim fins with are bicycle saddles…in both cases, everyone has a unique set of needs, and no one size or design fits everyone.
Most dive shops will let you test fins in their training pool, and many surf shops will allow swim fin returns if the fins have only been used once or twice. Check with them before you buy, and if possible do business with a shop who is willing to work with you.
The goal is to strive for the balance between comfort and power that suits you! As your swim fin experience and fitness level increases, your taste in fins will change as well. The best way to approach fins is as an ongoing learning experience. Don’t expect perfection immediately.