Googling the perfect wave


Article by Pieter Streicher, managing director at BulkSMS.com

The Internet and cell phones have changed the sport of surfing forever. These new technologies give surfers access to weather and swell information to get predictions for good surfing conditions. Googling for perfect surf enables surfers to maintain their lifestyle and keep their day job.

“Surf forecasts available from the Internet or sent to cell phones have made surfers less dependent on Neptune ‘s whims. Access to data about surfing conditions, even as far as a week ahead of time, have enhanced surfers’ quality of life by allowing them to accommodate their surfing lifestyle with work and family commitments,” said Dr Pieter Streicher, managing director of BulkSMS.com, a wireless application service provider.

Twenty or so years ago, hardcore surfers chose to live in remoter areas near quality surf breaks. This meant that they led a humble lifestyle supported by a modest job. They kept their schedules flexible just in case the waves got good. They sacrificed a good job in the city for their passion for surfing uncrowded and quality waves.

Today, all surfers, including city dwellers with good jobs use technology to predict surf conditions up to a week or more in advance. This knowledge enables them to plan weekends or when to take leave for a trip to quality surf spots when the next swell hits.

While surfers are dependent on their ability to read the weather and swell charts to make the right call for quality waves, many have come to rely on a surfcaster’s surf predictions to plan when they go surfing. Surfcasters, professional surf forecasters, are at the forefront of the analysis and translation of online wind and sea data into intelligible next day or next week surf reports. 

Steve Pike, or “Spike” as he is known in the surfing community, runs a surf forecasting service called Wavescape.co.za. His website, email newsletter as well as WAP and SMS surf data feeds provide multiple access points and differing layers of detail on the surf conditions from Cape Town to Durban .

For example, the SMS surf forecasts, provided to Wavescape.co.za by BulkSMS.com, are provided as either a daily subscription service from the shortcode 31020 or an on-demand pull service sent to 34010. Several South African coastal destinations can be assessed via a keyword – WD provides data for Durban . Each SMS contains swell and wind data for a five day period in the following format for a local area: 

5/29 2pm

Date (month/day) and time

SWL WSW 6ft 13 secs

Swell direction, height (in feet) and period (in seconds)

WND SW 12

Wind direction and speed (in knots)

According to Spike, “Surfing the Net can never surpass the true vocation of surfing but the digital age can certainly reduce the ratio between the time planning and travelling and the time spent in the water.”

Spike provides surfcasting services to Red Bull Big Wave Africa, a big wave event held each winter at Dungeons off Hout Bay near Cape Town . An international cast of surfers participate in the event and rely on Spike’s predictions when the next twenty foot swell arrives in South Africa before booking their plane tickets from places like Los Angeles , California .

According to Spike, “Surfcasting for the Red Bull event is nail-biting. There is so much riding on making the right call on the surf: upholding the prestige of this world-class big wave event; the investment of surfers who travel long distance to get here; and convincing the sponsors, competition officials and media that a particular day will be better than the next.”

Knowing when the sea is going to offer quality waves provides surfers with further benefits. After consulting surf predictions, they can schedule time for a surf during the day and still fit in family and work commitments.

“Looks like there will be nice surf next week. I’ve a busy schedule but I’ll try work my diary to get some waves in during the week,” said Glen Thompson, a Cape Town surfer, after looking at the SMS report. 

Access to surf information has also come to mean that more and more people are enjoying quality waves along the coastline, thereby creating demand for leisure time at the ocean, surfing products such as surfboards and wetsuits as well surf tourism in South Africa .

“The most powerful tool of the new media is the gift that it gives to surfers in enabling them to surf, to dream about surf, and to communicate with each other about surfing,” said Spike.

The older hardcore surfers may not agree with these changes as they are seeing increased crowds at their favourite surf spots in more remote areas. The West Coast is now an option for Cape Town surfers who can predict when to hop in the car for an hour or so drive to perfect conditions at a famous long left breaking wave. Jeffrey’s Bay , South Africa ‘s surfing Mecca , is deserted when there is no swell. When surf predictions on the Internet show that the surf will be building and wind off-shore, Jeffrey’s Bay receives an influx of surfers from cities as far a field as Durban and Cape Town .

“Surfing the web is one step closer to the beach for city surfers with busy schedules. The Internet enable surfers to access surf forecasts and cell phones provide a further channel for surfing data. These new technologies enable the sharing of information about surfing conditions anywhere and anytime and help maintain the surfing lifestyle. Surfers now have both job and surf satisfaction,” said Dr Streicher. 

ENDS

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About BulkSMS.com

BulkSMS.com is a leading wireless application service provider offering bulk SMS solutions to the businesses, organisations, schools and individuals in South African, United Kingdom , European, and USA . Bulksms.com is a Cape Town ( South Africa ) based company and has been in operation since 2000.

BulkSMS.com offers bulk SMS messaging, subscription and premium rate solutions to meet the needs of business, public benefit organisations and individuals. Bulksms.com provides messaging services via the Internet, email and Bulksms.com Desktop Messenger, its desktop SMS application. BulkSMS.com is able to offer clients with white label messaging solutions and supports the integration of messaging systems with a client’s applications using an e-API. Bulksms.com also offers the WAP Content Platform which provides the platform to host and access mobile content.