Ever wondered what’s it like to have a surfboard with morphing rails and rocker that lets you alter its shape to optimize speed, achieve a killer turn, or get deeper into the barrel? Wonder no more, this surf craft has been in existence for a long time now – they’re called surf mats.
Although you rarely see them in the line-up these days, surf mats are popular with the fiercely underground riders. Surf mats put your face closer to the wave, letting you experience a far-heightened sense of speed, precisely what adventurous riders want in a surfboard.
In this article, you’ll find out about surf mats and:
- What a surf mat is
- What makes a good surf mat
- The best surf mats
- Mat Surfing 101 – Step-by-step Guide
- Patching a surf mat
What Is A Surf Mat?
Surf mats are inflatable floaties made from durable TPU-coated nylon, with welded seams, a rough or sticky side upward-facing your body, and a smooth underside for gliding through the water. It is an actual mat that lets you levitate above the surface of the water.
These mats may look like boogie boards. However, they are built and ridden in an entirely different way. To begin with, surf mats are not rigid boards – they are inflatables. Then, not any surfer is immediately skilled at riding it because they are not as hard as the regular surfboards.
The surf mat became popular around the 1960s when young beachgoers rode small inflatable boards to skim through the whitewater on summer days. Seemingly, surf mates were accessible and easy to play with. Unfortunately, when the bodyboard came into the picture, the surf mat revolution stopped.
Today, surf mats are getting resurgence as they are starting to gain new fans as the retro coalition gained traction and salvaged old gears like the paipo, the longboard, and other old-fashioned surf crafts.
Surf mats nearly became a thing of the past. But, thanks to brands that still develop and engineer high-end inflatable mats like Advanx, Converse, and Merrin, surf mats are still around.
What Makes A Good Surf Mat?
The best surf mats are built with a great deal of time, love, and attention to detail. Their manufacturers know that each surfer has their perfect fit, so they ensure to provide.
It starts with the design, the markings and cuttings, welding, valves and dying, and finally – marking.
The design is often based on the surfer’s body size and the waves the surf mat will be used for. This information gives a better understanding of how to mark, cut, and shape the materials.
A good surf mat has the finest materials. By saying finest, it means it should be a TPU backed nylon that provides the perfect balance between weight, flexibility, and strength. Then, there are the extremely light fabrics that add to the overall strength of the surf mat.
Surf mats will get the same beating as the regular surfboard. Thus during manufacturing, they go through some extremely heavy poundings. This quality measurement step guarantees the internal structures and seams won’t fail.
The sealant is another critical factor in surf mat creation. The most reliable surf mats use Polyurethane sealant. Any surfer would understand why – because Polyurethane sealant doesn’t leave as many toxic traces as other suitable sealants in the industry.
Top 6 Best Surf Mats Reviewed
Surf mats have been one of the undercover alternative surf crafts that offer surfers a rather exhilarating and fast ride. They turn seemingly slow waves into a more than entertaining session. While they are not designed for extreme aerial antics like a bodyboard, they can still satisfy you with their performance.
- Intex Surf's Up Inflatable Mats – Best Overall
- 4 Ever Inflatable Surf Body Board with Handles Best for Kids
- Krypt MT5 Surf Mat
- Fourth Gear Flyer Surfmats Vespa Roundtail
- G-MAT 5 Star General
- Warpmats Custom Surf Mats
#1. Intex Surf's Up Inflatable Mats – Best Overall
This inflatable surf mat adds style to water fun. It is made with a fiber-tech interior structure equipped with 12 gauge vinyl air chambers allowing for more time on the waters.
Intex Surf’s Up Inflatable Mat is a must-get surf mat! For less than $30, you are getting a surf mat that is more like a surfboard. It is durable, firm, and absolutely worth your money. It can be used to lounge on a pool or on the ocean to hit the waves.
Intex Surf’s Up Inflatable Mats are shaped in vintage rafts with retro colors, too. They are soft for casual water fun and tough for a whitewater experience. They are definitely worth their price.
|Made of 12-gauge vinyl||The warning labels are printed on front|
|Generous weight limit|
|Includes repair patch|
#2. 4 Ever Inflatable Surf Body Board with Handles Best for Kids
Made from high-density fabric and double anti-leakage nozzles, 4 EVER Inflatable Surf Body Board offers generous buoyancy and a long-time fun for kids of all ages. The fun can go on up to a month as the air could stay for that long if not deflated.
Sized between a kickboard and a bodyboard, this inflatable surf mat can be used as a slip and slide water game pool, a beach floating mat to learn how to swim, or a kickboard that can make significant bounce for kids and adults weighing up to 180 lbs.
4 EVER Inflatable Surf Body Board with Handles comes with a two-sided color design that is perfect for matching your summertime vibes. Not only will the kids be thrilled with it, but adults who genuinely love breaking the waves in the shallows.
|Works well on any water conditions||Too small for tall riders|
|Thick and hard to pop
#3. Krypt MT5 Surf Mat – Best for Advanced Surf Mat Riders
The brand Krypt is known for its uniquely Australian surf craft development. This advancement introduces cutting-edge performance in surf mat riding. One that allows for incredible speed, remarkable power, and extended projection through each turn.
Their Krypt MT5 Surf Mat is designed by the surf mat Pro himself – Mark Thomson. This surf mat is the fifth generation design of this line that was first developed ten years ago. It sets the standard for advanced fabrics in modern surf mat manufacturing and construction.
This surf mat is made from an ultra-thin, lightweight, Hi-Tech military fabric that is exceptionally strong and durable. Every surf mat includes a self-sealing one-way valve unique to Krypt Surf Technology. These features make MT5 the most advanced production surf mat in the market today.
|Designed for professional use||More expensive than other surf mats|
|Slim and lightweight
#4. Fourth Gear Flyer Surfmats Vespa Roundtail – Best Medium-sized Surf Mat
One of the best ways to enjoy the waters with consistent swells is to ride it on inflatable surf mats. One of the best surf mats you need to experience riding it with is the Fourth Gear Flyer Surfmats Vespa Roundtail.
Fourth Gear Flyer takes pride in its hand-crafted surf mats. A company that’s built out of necessity, Fourth Gear Flyer made sure the surf mats they manufacture are thinner, more pliable, durable than the remaining surf mats manufacturer in the industry back then.
Vespa Roundtail is the more extended version of Fourth Gear Flyer’s Fatty. It was developed with a more generous amount of mat. But, no cubic centimeter is wasted in this mat. Every inch redefines the bottom-end performance of mat riding.
Also, the edges feel round and carved, allowing you to turn back on an overhead wave flawlessly. You can skim down-the-line and over-the-flats effortlessly, since paddling and catching waves feels just like doing it on a regular surfboard – or even better.
|Simple and minimalistic design||May look chunky|
#5. G-MAT 5 Star General – Best Custom Design Surf Mats
Custom Surfmats makes sure every surf mat they manufacture and put out in the market is uniquely tailored to match the surfer’s specific needs. It doesn’t matter where you are or where you surf in the world, Custom Surfmats has just the suitable surf mat for you.
One of the surf mats they have in their line of products is the G-Mat 5 Star General under their G-Mat Range. This design is built to 4 stock sizes to guarantee fit for riders of different sizes and heights. It comes with an elastic rocker to help you when you draw out, arc turn, or simply glide through the waves.
Great for any water conditions, G-Mat 5 Star General is a highly dependable and versatile surf mat. It is built with the same materials and construction as most of the brand’s surf mats – TPU backed nylon, high-quality fabrics, and polyurethane sealants.
Like most of Custom Surfmats’ products, G-MAT 5 Star General is the perfect surf mat for anyone wanting the best ride but on a limited budget.
|Custom-made according to rider’s preference||Has to be ordered in advance|
|Can be your one-mat-quiver|
#6. Warpmats Custom Surf Mats – Best Styled Surf Mats
For Warpmats, riding waves on surf mats is pure joy. Thus, they make sure the every surf mat they manufacture is customized according to the surfer’s preference to make the most of every wave ridden.
Each Warpmat surf mat is a collaboration of the rider’s idea and the engineers at Warpmat. The first step is for the surfer to talk directly to the maker to discuss the best surf mat suitable. From there, the design elements will be explored, including the length, width, rail shape, bottom contour, and all.
After the decisions are made, the construction of the customized surf mat begins. It goes through the same assembly as most Warpmats surf mats. The difference lies in the materials – a choice between 70 denier nylon or 200 denier nylon.
Designs may go from standard with just one color, acid-dyed, to acid-dyed with stenciled patterns. You will love how the Warpmats surf mat lets you move forward no matter the water condition. It doesn’t matter whether the waves are tiny or large, choppy or clean; you will get the ride of your life.
|Sturdy and with great aesthetics||Has to be ordered in advance and from overseas|
|Easy to inflate and deflate|
Mat Surfing 101 – Step-by-step Guide
Riding surf mats is fun, but as with most water sports, it takes practice to master its every secret. Here’s everything you need to know about mat surfing.
- Inflate the surf mat between 50% to 60%. Do not overinflate. Softer inflation gives a looser ride and makes it easier to bomb over waves. Less inflation makes it hard to control the surf mat.
- Be sure you can bend the mat between 90 and 45 degrees.
- Add a pair of bodysurfing fins.
- Paddle using your arms and leg together.
- To pull a duck dive, pull your elbows, grip the rails near the top corners, and punch through the water, head first.
- Catch a wave by moving your body backward, keeping your head down, extending your hands on both sides of the mat, and kicking with your legs and fins.
- The instant you take off, quickly move your body forward, bend your knees and keep your chin on the front of the surf mat.
- As you ride the wave, keep yourself from grabbing the surf mat’s rails.
- Use your hips and fins to bend and rotate the surf mat.
- As you progress, try to squeeze the top corners of the mat to make hard turns and progressive tricks.
Another tip is if you have a hard time paddling out or catching a wave, try riding an inflated surf mat. Then, little by little, inflate it back as you make any progress.
Patching A Surf Mat
The materials surf mats are made from, making them very likely to get cuts and scrapes from which air may escape if left unpatched. Most surf mats come with materials you will need to patch them up in case they get holes.
Be sure to rinse the mat with fresh water to clean and remove specks of dirt and debris that might be stuck to it. Leave it to dry completely. While waiting, cut out a piece from the repair kit your surf mat came with. Remember that the patch you are cutting should be at least 3” bigger in circumference than the hole. This size ensures that it bonds and stays stuck on the solid material around the repair point.
Conceal the urethane side of your repair kit with masking tape. You might need to get some contact cement to spread around the extent of the hole and paste your extra repair material around the hole.
Wait about 30 minutes to dry up the patch. Reapply at any points where you see it folding up. Also, be sure that the surf mat is flat so you won’t accidentally create any unnecessary bonds that stick out vertically.
Final Thoughts On Surf Mat
Some might think that riding on surf mats is as easy as jumping on them and surfing away. It isn’t. Riding a surf mat is never easy as it looks. Some experienced surfers have also struggled with these squishy mats for a session or two before finally riding it well.
If it is so hard, then why is it becoming a thing then? It’s simple – our connection to the ocean is something you would want to experience. Anything that keeps us close to the waters makes us like it. What’s more beautiful about surf mats is being able to enjoy the nomadic lifestyle that every surfer traveler dreams of – without having to carry heavy and huge surfboards.
The surf mats we featured are the best in the market that we believe you can confidently choose from. The Intex Surf’s Up Inflatable Mat tops our list as it is the most versatile, and almost anyone in the family can use it for nearly anything they can think of using it for.
FAQs (Frequently Asked Questions)
Q: What is the difference between surf mat and bodyboard?
A: Aside from being hard vs. soft, surf mats and bodyboards are different in so many ways. Surf mats are maneuvered by pulling up on the front corners of the mat and then tilting into an angle to guide you through the waves. On the other hand, bodyboards let you keep your feet in the water and typically use fins to control the speed and balance. Launching on a surf mat allows you to use fins to paddle out with your feet out of the water as much as possible.
Q: How long do surf mats last?
A: The nylon material used in most surf mats is remarkably durable and can easily outlast surfboards with heavy glass jobs if handled with care. To keep your surf mat in its tip-top shape, never leave it inflated inside a hot car. Do not ride it onto rocky shores or shallow reefs – these are surefire ways to tear up your surf mat. Rinse them with fresh water after every use. If you notice small tears, repair them as soon as you can. And, always keep them in dry, cool places when not in use.