AN INTERVIEW WITH JEREMY GROSVENOR
"Paradise Is Where You Find It"
Montauk, NY, February 2015
Interview by Ken McKnight
The news recently in America has been about the record snowfall, freezing rain and coastal flooding in the Northeastern corridor of the country. From New York to Newfoundland, Mother Nature’s dramatic onslaught has been in record form as the phenomena known as a “Nor-Easter.”
Smack dab in the middle of this is Here and Now’s next interview with a look at Jeremy Grosvenor of Montauk, New York. He is a mat enthusiast that has been known to surf and canoe paddle in seriously cold waters. He is in the water whenever he can get there. I think he has gills.
I was first drawn to Jeremy from Dale Solomonson’s old Neumatic website where a really cool photo of Grosvenor featured him flying on a left.
The shot instantly became one of my favorites as the rider was in serious trim and at flank speed. Dale would only say this guy mats in New York in cold water and is really good.
Later I visited Dale at his workshop in Oregon and we talked about Jeremy a bit and Dale pointed to a wall where a schematic template drawing was tacked up for analysis purposes.
That certainly piqued my interest even more.
Jeremy Grosvenor is truly a unique character in our tiny mat world. Check him out here or better yet, track him down in New York and share a few rides with him, you won’t regret it.
Here and Now…..
UKMS – I understand Graeme [Webster] had the G-Mat known as Phileas sent to you last fall. How was it? Good, great, shithouse? Were you bummed to have to send it away? Tell us about it?
Jeremy - Phileas was a special delivery; fell from the azure sky and landed just near my feet while I was taking a nap and 100 yards from the Montauk light house. It was a perfect landing indeed since the cove where we chase waves is right around the corner. Since the surf mats I am responsible for are 3 Neumatics, when the G-Mat landed, it was a real treat to try something new. The G-Mat is excellent, the nonskid doesn’t reek like a toxic waste dump and the valve is A- plus.
I was super bummed to send Phileas to a fellow surf matter because I am an extreme hoarder and I wanted to kidnap Phileas to Oahu to play in the surf at Makaha.
UKMS - What do you look for in a surf mat?
Jeremy - I look for bright colors so I can find it when it runs away from me. You see, I know minimal about design, shapes and wave riding. I purely like things that have an aesthetic pull. Saskia my life partners fabric shape color combinations, Dan Flavin’s florescent light installations and the Matisse cut outs at MOMA. When I am trimming on a surf mat I think about colors and shapes… if I can figure out how to adjust for what I am riding then that is what I am looking for.
UKMS - When you say you’re riding a mat and you think of colors and shapes, isn't that a hallucination? How do these images manifest themselves and do you carry them with you later on? Have you put them into something we can visualize? Tell us about them?
Jeremy - Remember I am a nobody who likes to take "23 breaths” to inflate a bag of air and try and chase waves. (Like that guy who has the Blog sorry I forgot his name.) [Ed: It's Bruce "Pranaglider" Cowan]. After inflating the surf mat I am all psyched up to chase waves. Maybe it is a lack of OXYGEN (I am straight edge) I feel so good on the surf mat and when I drop in sometimes I close my eyes and it is like a Stan Brakhage film “BLACK ICE” or “STELLAR.” A collage of flickering colors with a black back ground. Sometimes there are isolated out lines of geometric shapes. Remember when you were a kid coughing with your eyes closed and all the beautiful shapes and colors would become visible behind closed eyelids?? It’s Like that. It is really amazing. I’d attribute this to feeling even. Liking shapes and colors and opening up to things.
UKMS - Have you seen a mat yet you really want to try out?
Jeremy - Since I am a hoarder the last time I was in RITE AID (a massive candy store that also sells medicine and bandages) I purchased two surf mats and I am really stoked to blow them up. And I’d like to try a Krypt and anything from Ali Baba.
UKMS - What constitutes a good mat vs. a GREAT mat? Can you tell us about any of your GREAT mats?
Jeremy - Well my number one mat is a gift that Phal Dixon gave me on Molokai in 2010 and I unconsciously gave it to a very good surfing colleague. It is now somewhere on the west coast in the Southern hemisphere. The only way I can get it back is if I visit him.
I have two customs (and one stock) Neumatics from Dale Solomonson and those are choice because one is totally ORANGE, and the other was one of the last high performance, super light, nonskid embedded in the ‘deck’ surf mats Dale made before he went silent.
[Ed: Dale built a small number of mats with 30 denier bottom skins]
UKMS - Do you study mats, say, like on the Internet? Do watch videos or review still photos of others riding mats?
Jeremy - I am totally into watching all the surf mat footage (photos, videos and drawings) I can see. People on surf mats are always smiling and the trimming is out of sight.
UKMS - Can you noticeably tell the difference between mat outlines, lengths, widths, pontoons, etc.?
Jeremy - Not really I am a total hack. I just try and make do like the kids doing front flips with the trashed mattress in the yard as their trampoline.
UKMS – Do you think lighter is better in a mat? Or, do you prefer shorter maybe, longer, narrower? Does it depend on conditions, inflations, tides or maybe crowds on what mat you ride?
Jeremy – Hmm, I want to see a really narrow surf mat like 12” and a stinger style surf mat. I want to be like Robin Hood and send $$$$$$$ to the UK so G-Mat can experiment and write a Ph.D. on inflatable surf craft.
UKMS – What is your go-to mat currently?
Jeremy - Orange Neumatic: It is really durable and bright.
UKMS - What’s in your quiver?
Jeremy - This is embarrassing. In the quiver abode I have a sign that says BUY NOTHING DAY from Reverend Billy and the church of stop shopping. If he could see this he would be like ‘Oh Lord!’ My favorite board is this homemade green wood rectangular hollow plywood cigar box tri fin surfboard that has been sitting in the parking lot for the last 6 months at a very good surf break in Montauk. It is so fun to surf.
UKMS - How often to you go to other mats to try them?
Jeremy - I need to travel where surf matters are chasing waves. I’d really like to meet some other surf mat riders. I almost never get to try other mats.
UKMS - What is normal and comfortable to you in regards to inflations and how often do you adjust?
Jeremy - I inflate it so I can feel my chest when I put my hand on the bottom and press up. I put as little air in as possible.
UKMS - How about speed? How do you approach and define say the 3rd and 4th gear mentality?
Jeremy - I utilize a slight shift of body weight and different lines on the wave.
UKMS - How fast do you think you have gone, realistically? Have you seen top end speed yet in your career?
Jeremy - Still looking to go faster
UKMS – In regards to trimming. How do you get to that spot and how do you hold onto it? Can you explain in a little more detail?
Jeremy - Chasing waves on the surf mat I use to always paddle into it. A while back I was enlightened when I got to surf mat with Jamie (Outer Banks, North Carolina) He did it proper and kicked into the wave and pulled himself up on the surf mat after he was on the wave.
That was the first time I surf matted with another person and since then I do that 70% of the time. Since I am an avid prone paddler I love to paddle into waves too. Kicking is more effective and being forward on the mat helps with dropping in. So I trade different methods..
Trimming I like to look ahead and imagine myself on where I want to be on the wave... that’s how I get to the 'spot.' Think, relax, and squeeze the surf mat and lean.
I like what Bruce Lee said “finger pointing to the sky don't think of the finger think of the galaxies that are out there.” something like that. On rare a occasions when riding the surf mat my favorite thing is to have my arms to my sides and mimic 'Charlie' the Seal. Most of the time I try to be cool and have my head low chin touching the mat (getting chaffed) and in a pre "cobra" position with both hands on the front corners of the surf mat adjusting the shape. Surf mats are freaking so great!
UKMS - Do you generally ride with you chin over the front of the mat?
Jeremy - I have experimented with different body locations on/over the front of the mat. I like to ride with my chin right over the front..
UKMS - What fins are you using currently and why?
Jeremy - In December I ran into Surf and Sea in Haleiwa and I got a pair of XXL UDT fins. Those are way to big and perfect for winter 5mm surf mat sessions. I also got a pair for warm water from Greg Deets.
UKMS - Have you tried a lot of different fins?
Jeremy - I’d like to try John Yettaw's custom swim fins that are made with plastic, duct tape and Birkenstocks. He swam across a lake in Myanmar to Aung San Suu Kyi's compound. I think he swam like 2 miles with them; they worked great and it was a bummer for Ms. Kyi because she was under house arrest and was not supposed to have any visitors. She got added time for Mr. Yettaw’s swim fin test.
UKMS – What was Ms. Kyi under arrest for and just who it John Yettaw?
Jeremy - To my knowledge she was under house rest for being a 'dissident' and pro-democracy leader in the eyes of the military Junta. She was under house arrest for 15 plus years and was freed after her political party won an election. She is now free and a politician. John Yettaw is a land locked adventure who made some great homemade swim fins and claims he had a vision and came to save Mrs. Kyi from assassination that is why he swam across the lake.
UKMS – Do you work for a living? Did you grow up on Long Island?
Jeremy - Yes, I work to live. I am the owner operator of Malolo Canoe Surf - taking folks surfing, outrigger canoe paddling and all sorts of water activities. I grew up at 543 Broadway on the island of Manhattan.
UKMS – I believe you live in Ditch Plains. How cold is it there right now? Do you mat there in the winter? What thickness wetsuits are you using? Boot, gloves, masks, snowplows.
Jeremy - I live in Sagaponack, ‘land of big ground nuts.’ it is west 20 miles west of Montauk.
Sagaponack is known to have incredible soil to farm on and at the moment the indigenous farmers grow GMO corn for feed, potatoes for export to Puerto Rico and massive mansions that are un occupied 85% of the year. The beaches are are amazing g and produce some super breaks. The air temperature is presently 20F water temperature is 45F? I like to wear 6mm wetsuits from December to April. Hoods, boots, mittens and smiles are worn. I am stoked to look at the ocean so if I get to go in it is other worldly. I am very thankful.
UKMS – How far north have you ventured to mat? Have you ridden really cold stuff, or is Long Island/Montauk/Ditch Plains as cold as it gets (or looks in winter)?
Jeremy - I’d really like to go to Iceland and inflate the surf mat and look at it on the ice and black sand.
UKMS – How does a mat react to super cold water, or Snow on the beach, the really adverse conditions that I know Long Island has?
Jeremy - The same.
UKMS – Also, you sent me some photos of the Westside of Oahu at Makaha with your mat in front of what you called “Supsquatch.” What was that all about and did you ride your mat while you were there?
Jeremy - I am very thankful to have had the opportunity to chase waves there. The Supsquatch is a fun tool made by Todd Bradley and Brian Keaualana the proprietors of C4 watermen. It is giant surf mat!
The Supsquatch has 4 paddlers (canoe paddles) and one steersman who wears flippers. It has a lot of air in it and catches waves with ease. 360, late drops and trimming all happen. Everyone is laughing and smiling. I rode the Supsquatch with a very talented crew of surfers from Kauai. Yes, I did a bunch of surf mat riding at Makaha. It was really fun taking off on waves on the surf mat with the Supsquatch cheering from the channel. I really wanted to get a shot of sharing a wave with the Supsquatch while I was on the surf mat.
Oh man, the West side of Oahu is beautiful and the whole entire quiver is in the water and all ages and everyone is so talented and smiling. As odd as this might sound it is really good to be surrounded by folks whose skin color is light brown. Color doesn't matter and chasing waves has been very exclusive for the majority of people. I am a big fan of Nick Gabaldon. It is great to see brown skinned people chasing waves.
UKMS – Wasn't Nick Gabaldon the guy who died trying to shoot the Malibu Pier in 1939?
Jeremy - Yes he was. I am really keen on folks who push the limits... not just shooting the pier and paddling a distance to go surf rather pushing the idea of "fight the power."
I am psyched he surfed at a time when African American people were heavily discriminated against. I am sure there were many folks who were not Anglo Saxon’s and were denied access to the beach too. This nation is made up of some many people and the visual record only highlights a certain melanin... I think it is important to remember the USA is AMAZING and there was and IS a lot racial discrimination about being on the beach; colored folks banned from the beach, blacks thought to sink in the water and (past) denied access to the Outrigger canoe club.
UKMS – I’ve heard quite a bit about you and outriggers. Can you tell us about your canoeing? How’d you start that and how far have you taken it? I mean you ride waves on it?
Jeremy -I am a failed Maritime Anthropologist. Awhile back I got a book called the Outrigger canoes of Bali and Madura, Indonesia by Adrian Horridge and I was completely inspired to sail and fish from the double outrigger canoes featured in the text. I searched and found my good friend Pak Saem on an island between Kalimantan and Java and paddled and sailed canoes with him and his friends.
I am very grateful that I have the responsibility of taking care of Kahiki (canoe from a far place) the outrigger canoe. I am a complete novice and keen to learn how to canoe surf. Basically, Kahiki was being taken care of in Kalapaki, Kauai by my mentor Chris Kauwe. This cat is amazing. I bugged him so much that he shipped it to the west side of Manhattan island and later we paddled Kahiki with a bunch of friends to Ditch Plains, Montauk, New York.
I want to do things like Ron ‘Canoe’ Drummond, he inspires me. Surfing a Grumman canoe solo in nice waves now that’s all time… Outrigger canoe surfing is a lot of fun and rides can be long. It is best to sit way outside and wait and catch one or two waves. It is fun to go with all sorts of folks. We chase all sorts of waves and I am very grateful to have Carol an elite outrigger canoe paddler come on almost all the canoe surf sessions. She has taught me a lot about the outrigger canoe and friendship.
(Insert links of Manhattan Paddling video here as well as the article from the New York Times)
UKMS - You also mentioned the Hydro-Paipos that the late Terry Hendrix worked on inspired you and that you have been making and riding similar boards. Tell us about that.
Jeremy - The Hydro-paipo boards I created are part 'Cargo cults' (hoping to attract similar things) and part reinterpretations of other peoples ideas of hydro foiling surf craft. I got turned on to hydro foiling paipo boards when Dale Solomonson suggested I check out a very creative paipo maker named Roger Wayland. When I checked out his creations I felt like I had smelled the most beautiful flower. It made sense even if they broke apart. He made these great craft with plywood and PVC pipes and posted them on the internet.
Eventually I found My paipo forum and read about hydro-paipoers Gilbert Lum, Terry Hendrix and "the graduate students at Scripp's Oceanographic institute" who made a cool green hydro paipo out of plywood.
I never got a chance to meet any of these folks and made my hydro paipos on my own. It would be great to paddle out and see folks on home made experimental craft like those fellows.
Any way in 2002 I made a bunch of hydro paipos, out of plywood and windsurfing parts. The first time I swam out with the Hydro paipo was in August of 2002 in Montauk.
The water was really warm and the waves were head high very clean and slow. There was a fading hurricane swell. It must of looked dangerous because while I was swimming out with the hydro paipo it was positioned up side down so the two foot foil was out of the water (to get maximum forward speed) and I would flip it over and duck dive when a wave or the white water was close by. The first waves I chased and foiled was around shoulder high slow and clean. I'd take off on the wave like a traditional paipo rider holding the back corners of the paipo board while kicking hard and pulling my torso forward once I started moving. The paipo would raise, fall and sometimes skip out of the water. Once foiling steady I'd try and keep fins out of the water and my knees bent to create the least amount of resistance. It was exhausting and fun! When the paipo is foiling it feels like no resistance. I still take the hydro-paipo out and prefer when less folks are in the water. I am still experimenting on designs.. it is so much fun.
UKMS – Do you do ride or test anything else, Regular surfboards, Kneeboards, Standup Paddle boards?
Jeremy - Yes I like to ride all sorts of craft. I have been experimenting on a 10'6" Wavejet SUP. It is really fun to spend the whole session standing up (not using a paddle.) I take off standing up and try get back out side standing up. It is my stand up comedy routine. The board is super heavy and slow to prone paddle when the battery dies and it is a blast to ride. The Wahoo Bully board (giant bodyboard) is really fun to chase waves with an additional rider. Two - three people one bodyboard... fun.
Other wise my go to craft in addition to the surf mat; Daniel Thomson Tomo Golden mean machine, the homemade orphaned green hollow plywood longboard in the parking lot, a Christain Beamish glider, modified Doyle soft board, 'Tom Ski two 'Alaia, stock prone paddle board, 14’ Dave Kalama SUP gun, December Snow Skate (bindingness snowboard) and of course Kahiki OC4, outrigger canoe.
UKMS - Can you, or do you, want big, nasty, ass chewing waves to ride or are you out for the Zen like waves?
Jeremy - Big nasty off shore waves with the birds are appealing. I am very grateful to be near very good point breaks and have a mentor named Steve who is keen to join me in nasty waves. Zen like waves are fantastic and it is an honor to witness our fantastic son Mamoun chase and rip waves on his body board standing up (no flippers or skegs.) It is amazing. Hollow fast close out beach breaks waves are UFO language. I don't understand them… I pass through.
UKMS – I know you were close to Dale Solomonson. Have you talked with him recently? There was a really great shot of you on his website for years. Where was that and who took the picture?
Jeremy - I send Dale a Postcard once in a while not expecting a reply. Just letting him know the Neumatics are getting wet. I hope he is well and it would be great seeing him. The photo on Dale’s web site was from Rockaway Queens NY. A very kind lady took the photo. Unfortunately I forgot her name.
UKMS - You’ve been riding mats for quite a while.. What do you think of the new era in mats and riders, say in the last ten years?
Jeremy - It is very exciting to see so many folks enjoying the surf mats. It is a great time to ride a surf mat. I really like seeing the videos of Daniel Thompson and his family ride surf mats.
UKMS - What are your thoughts on the future of mat surfing? What would you like to see and why?
Jeremy - I’d like to see more experimentation in shape, size and thickness. Dirigibles use to be made with a sewing machine. I’d like to see people (ME) making their own surf mats.
UKMS - Where do you see yourself in the next two years with your mat surfing?
Jeremy - I want to go on an interstate surf mat trip with folks who like the Ocean
UKMS - Are you in contact with other mat riders?
Jeremy - Like four, Jeff, Jamie, Matt and Tim
UKMS - Do you surf the same spot day in and day out, or do you seek out other waves to push yourself on?
Jeremy - I try to go in the Ocean often. I want to do more night surfing. There is a variety of waves to chase here from beach breaks to jetty waves to point breaks. I am curious about the non-makeable beach breaks and I really like the point breaks. I want to do more night surfing.
UKMS - Is California on your radar as a place you’d like to come to and mat? Anywhere else you really want to ride your mat? You said you surfed here before. How was it?
Jeremy - Oh I really like surfing in California. I want to come back and surf in California. I use to participate in the Catalina classic paddle board race and I’d always have the Neumatic with me. The event is epic. It starts at Two Harbors on Catalina Island and finishes at Manhattan Beach. Some years I’d borrow a paddle board and the board would stay on the boat and go back to Marina Del Rey.
I’d inflate the Neumatic, don the fins, and have the dry bag on the mat and swim in. Manhattan Beach has really good waves (for a New Yorker). After getting to shore I’d go chase waves at the Pier. It was all time. Other spots Hermosa Beach, Imperial Beach, Manhattan Beach, County line, Swamis and Zuma beach.
UKMS – Anywhere else in the world you’ve ridden your mat?
Jeremy - Costa Rica, Panama, Puerto Rico, Bahamas, Hawaii, NJ, Rhode Island, New York and Florida.
UKMS – Maybe take us through your dream mat wave without divulging too much about where it is.
Jeremy - Every wave is a dream wave.
UKMS – Do people around you think you’re crazy for riding a mat?
Jeremy - I think people think I am crazy in general. The surf mat is amazing and I feel like I am just starting to understand what it can do… I got to save my breath for blowing up the ‘bag of air.’
UKMS - Thanks Jeremy for a look into your world. See you in the water!