There are big-ticket gear items that are essential to surfing. The board, fins, a wetsuit. And then there are the not-really-essential-but-totally-awesome items that fix a common problem in surfing or just make your life easier like a surf poncho, or a changing mat. Like I said – not essential, but totally awesome, and guaranteed to make your surfing life better. Especially if you own a wetsuit.
Why Do I Need A Changing Mat?
The problem is twofold. First of all, changing out of a wet wetsuit without touching the ground is patently impossible, and stepping all over the ground and your suit as you try to free your legs from their clammy entrapment is not good for the longevity of your suit. And second, once removed, your wetsuit presents a yucky wet package that needs to be dealt with before the drive home.
Enter the surf mat, an ingenious piece of engineering designed to to fix both of the above problems. Below are a few ingenious changing mat solutions, some with a few more bells and whistles than others, as well as a couple of different solutions to the wet-wetsuit problem.
Changing Mat? Grass Pad? Changing Tub?
There are pros and cons to each. The changing mat is probably the most compact and streamlined option, being easy to change into and then cinch up to protect your car from wetsuit drippage. A grass mat provides more comfort while changing (the grass feels nice on the feet for sure) and can also be used for camping as a foot-wipe station/homey touch to wherever you decided to park your van for the night. But it doesn’t do quite as good of a job at car protection. A changing tub can be a bit more awkward to change in and out of, but it will provide guaranteed car protection, and if you just throw a bag of ice and a couple beers in you’ve got a cooler!
What Are The Best Surf Changing Mats?
1. Northcore Grass Changing Bag ($45.34)
2. Dakine Cinch Mat ($29.95)
3. Ho Stevie! Wetsuit Changing Mat ($29.9919.99)
4. Dorsal Grass Mat ($34.25)
5. West Path Grass Mat ($14.99 – $26.99)
6. Patagonia Black Hole Gear Tote ($99.00)
7. TubTrugs Large Tub ($30.89)
This mat takes the best of both worlds from the fake-grass mat and changing mat categories. Grass under your feet, but cinchable and waterproof to protect your car. Pretty nifty eh?
This mat has lasted me for the past four years or so. My favorite part about it? It comes with a little plastic carabiner, which I completely forgot about until a couple weeks ago when I was walking back up from Trestles (no e-bike for me). With my surfboard in one hand, skateboard and changing mat with wetsuit inside in the other, I was struggling. Until I remembered that carabiner and conveniently hitched my wetsuit bag to my backpack. Success.CHECK PRICE ON BACKCOUNTRY
Nothing like sticking to the basics. Ho Stevie! makes a bunch of great surf-accessory products such as surf ponchos, board socks, and more at just the right price point (below everyone else’s) and their surf changing mat is no exception. For the $10 you save on the Dakine Cinch Mat, you could buy yourself quite a few low-end carabiners to add to the Ho Stevie! bag, or just save the cash and find one lying around your house. But definitely add the carabiner – you never know when you’re going to need it.CHECK PRICE ON AMAZON
If you like grass, you’ll like the Dorsal Grass Mat. Versatile and rollable, it has super plush faux grass with a heavy-duty underside. At 24 x 24 inches you won’t find a better grass mat than this, unless your primary concern is price.CHECK PRICE ON AMAZON
Open Road Goods/West Path’s Grass Mat may not be quite as plush as the Dorsal Grass Mat, but it’s cheaper, and being made from upcycled material, it’s easier on the environment as well. Just be sure to check the sizing before you buy. While a 16 x 16 inch mat may be enough for some, it certainly isn’t luxurious. For that, check out the 30 x 30 option.CHECK PRICE ON AMAZON
An unorthodox (and relatively quite pricey) option, Patagonia’s Black Hole Tote gets the job done and more. With plenty of room to stand in while changing (the bottom measures 22 x 8.5 inches), and a fully waterproof design, the Black Hole Tote can haul wetsuits, double as a regular tote for dry items, and packs down plenty small as well.
Not a changing mat, but I’ve seen these in use at plenty of breaks, all over the world really, and if it weren’t for my trusty changing mat that’s been going strong for the past few years I would’ve bought myself one of these. Still might. A tub like this may be a bit more difficult to change while standing inside of, but it can do things a changing mat can’t like double as a beer cooler or a rinsing bucket for your wetsuit.CHECK PRICE ON AMAZON