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.
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.
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.
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.