Prototype: Nouveau Racer - S Deck (or all that glitters...)

G-Mat 154 Surfmat Nouveau Racer PDR Progressive Dropped Rail Prototype

I've recently built a prototype based on an existing design called the Nouveau Racer which is a mat built for solid/big waves. I thought some might find it interesting to get an insight into some of the design and testing process that goes in to these funbags we call surfmats.

This model has a 1/16" inward cant on I-beams 1,2,4 and 5 giving an enhanced concave and a slightly more taught feel than vertical I'beams without affecting overall pliability. All my mats have canted I-beams bar one and this is the standard configuration for the Nouveau Racer. No news there.

G-Mat 154 Surfmat Nouveau Racer PDR Progressive Dropped Rail Prototype

This proto (which I've named the Nouveau Racer - S Deck) has the same configuration on the bottom but some heavy alterations on the deck. 

G-Mat 154 Surfmat Nouveau Racer PDR Progressive Dropped Rail Prototype

Look closely and you'll see the I-beams fanning out progressively towards the tail on the deck. On the bottom they're parallel.

This leads to a progressive increase in rail drop towards the tail...

And a deepening concave of just over 5/8" at the nose and 13/16" at the tail.

My hope was that the torsion in the I-Beam and dropping rail towards the tail would lead to a mat that would increase bite and stability at the tail, combined with lift. Put simply, I was hoping she'd goes quickly forwards and be disinclined to go sideways. Perfect for heavy surf. The original design already achieves this really well so if after testing it turned out that there is no benefit, or didn't work at all, nothing lost. 

Let's see...

So as you can see, she goes forward. Well, she was always going to. She's also fairly quick. BUT... Here's the main learning point. Changing the parallel structure doesn't do mats any favours. The nose has much more hold (always a risk) than the tail. Essentially, the mat feels almost like two mats welded together like some kind of inflatable cut 'n' shut! 



But that's why we build prototypes.

The Nouveau Racer is a far superior mat. And here's the reason I think so. There is a key phrase that has stuck with me from my many, many hours of tutelage with Dale Solomonson: "straight lines can go curved but curved lines can't co straight". The point being, when you ride a mat the way mats are best ridden, it is the rider's behaviour and that of the wave that lead to the mat finding it's best shape. The job of the mat builder is essentially to provide a container to provide boundaries to the shape of the air inside it in as an effective but unobtrusive way as possible.

Straight and parallel lines allow this to happen. Over-cooking ruins the meal. But this is why we build prototypes. It's not until you get on it that you can really know. Mat builders putting the hours in is how we wind up with what we have in the water today.



PS: On a cautionary note, the internet is full of builders of all kinds of craft offering whacky "innovations". People "pushing the envelope" etc. Just remember that all that glitters is not gold. Unless you know something has been tested and retested, don't blow your dough.


Evolution - Small Tweeks

Meet G-Mat 110 (AKA "Steady Eddie").

G-Mat 110 Surfmat Surf mat Nouveau Racer 1564

Eddie is a tweaked Nouveau Racer. For those unfamiliar with it, the Nouveau Racer is a 4 pontoon surfmat with lower volume and comparatively round corners and notable concave designed for solid surf. A number of riders, including myself, have ridden this design in good waves around the globe with the feedback being pretty consistent... It takes a good wave to get going but once you do the mat is very dependable and maintains a good degree of glide for its size.

That's the real trick: building a mat that achieves hold without just bogging.

G-Mat 110 Surfmat Surf mat Nouveau Racer 544

I did notice one thing that I wanted to change, however. On really sizeable days, I was having to kick like crazy to get in to waves, given the mat's smaller profile. This resulted in some pretty hairy drops! Given that, I revisited the design and added a little more length (just a smidgeon). This runs the risk of slippage (there is a goldilocks zone when it comes to aspect ratios) so I needed to up the hold. 

G-Mat 110 Surfmat Surf mat Nouveau Racer 14785

A very slight alteration of the I-Beam positions to slightly enhance the concave has done the trick. The results so far? A mat that behaves as before but gets going a little earlier.



G-Mat 110 Surfmat Surf mat Nouveau Racer 65497

New Stuff

Here's what I'm currently riding. There's a fair bit going on that's being tested. 

G-Mat 98 (AKA "80's Nightmare" 

G-Mat 98 (AKA "80's Nightmare" 

First off, it's one of a shortlist of 2 for a design which maximises hold without losing too much hold. That's a tricky balance. One way is to narrow the mat. That does the job but leaves you with a mat that potentially bogs in weaker waves and flat spots. 

The other thing here is that I'm testing a new sealant for the grip.  I spoke with the tech guy at the company and, if this does what it says on the tin, this has the potential to be very pliable but also very durable. 😎

Finally, I've welded the valve on to the mat. 


This is a design I've been working on for a while. There are plenty of valves out there designed to be welded in but none of them are so good a design as the Boston valve, after modification. These valves are made to be stuck on, rather than fixed in, so I've had to do a lot of work to sort this out. 

Worth it though I think. 



4 Pontoons

Generally, I'm a fan of 3 pontoon mats. Personally, I find them to be generally more versatile with less of a structured feel and will usually require less air. However, the flatter feel can be an advantage at times and more pontoons allows width without depth, so lower volume when required. Also, some people just prefer the feel of four pontoons.

I built a couple of four pontoon mats a while ago. The best one being an all white mat named Casper, now owned by Cornishman, Phil Sinclair.


Casper was a lot of fun and Phil swears by her, but I found the mat felt very full and flat, a feeling that didn't really work for me. I left 4 pontoon mats alone for some time but started mulling an idea over a little while back and thought it was time to try it out with ever willing guinea pig, Ian Wraith.

G-Mat 58

I've tried to take the things that work in 3 pontoons and apply them to 4. First off, More stagger (the depth of the channels). I-beams 2 and 4 are slightly over half the height of 1 and 5. It's not evident in the photo but I-beam 3 (the central one) is taller than than 2 and 4 so there is more stability through the middle.  This also moves the pivot points out towards the rail so will provide a different feel.

I may have gone a bit too deep with the concave so might put more volume in the middle of further mats. I think we might need more grip up the middle but Ian rides toward the tail so we'll see.

The corners are pretty round to help with hold, rather than hacking down the length. We've also gone with Henry Hester's preferred valve placement. 

The Drawing Board

The Drawing Board

G-Mat 58 - Hester valve placement.

I'm excited to get some feedback on this. We just need waves over here now!



G-Mat 58

Ongoing Project Goes On...

A little while ago I made a mat called "Jus d'Orange" which went to Ian Wraith. Ian has given some great feedback on the design and I've personally witnessed him flying in both weak waves and cracking barrels.

All is going to plan so far then! The thing is, Jus d'Orange is made to fit Ian and Ian is considerably smaller than me so I've scaled up to fit my more weighty needs!

G-Mat 30 (AKA "Piping OTT")

This is a complete free-breather with a 200 denier top skin and 70d I-beams and bottom skin. The grip is stippled Sikaflex.  I've left a little space around the grip at the tail incase I need to rework the corners.

Given the ridiculously huge logo I've called her "Piping OTT". I'm really looking forward to giving this mat a go out.