Surfing in the digital era

This time last year I was surfing Southeast Asian waves, simultaneously searching for some shade and sunscreen. It goes without saying that I had it pretty great then, but I can’t discount the waves we received this past fall. There were multiple swells with glassy head high hollow waves. This was the first fall in a long time I was able to really take advantage of hurricane season.

Unfortunately, winter was a different story. I never wrote about it, but I had a great surf this past Christmas. A few days afterwards, I separated my AC joint frivolously racing my friend down an icey mountain while skiing. 

After a few miserable months and a few pounds, I started exercising and am feeling strong enough to get back in the water. I write this on the train going back to my surf storage facility (hi Mom and Dad).

When it comes to surfing New York, it’s all peaks and valleys. Most people don’t even know there are waves on this side of the Rockies let alone overhead monsters. The best time to surf is roughly September – February with the worst time being this very moment (May – August). However, the water is warm, my friends are home, and I don’t have to wear 5 millimeters of rubber. 

The reason for this post isn’t to announce my return back to mediocre surfing, but to comment on the way I get my swell info (punny, you’ll see). Over the years I’ve learned the ins and outs of picking the right spot and paddling out, but without the internet, I don’t know if I ever would. In NY, there are a bunch of ways to check the waves, and they include:

1. Going to the beach and praying
2. Checking the newspaper for wave heights and wind direction
3. Surfline
4. Swell Info

Surfline and Swell Info are websites that track both buoys and wind patterns to forecast surf. I’ve been using both for years, but recently I noticed something interesting. A ton of companies were redesigning their UX on websites and platforms ranging from Reddit, and Instagram, all the way to Swell Info and Surfline.

I usually check each SwellInfo to get a basic understanding of what waves are shaping up to form, and as the swell approaches I navigate to Surfline for a more detailed report.

Previously, when I visited SwellInfo I’d see this homepage:


A few weeks ago, I saw this update:

Screen Shot 2018-06-28 at 9.12.23 PM.png

Similarly, this was the old Surfline: 


And then this beautiful image appeared:

Screen Shot 2018-06-28 at 9.10.33 PM.png

It’s amazing to see an iconoclast culture like surfing catering to the global consumer. I used to think both these websites were fairly easy to run and maintain. It was simple, license out the buoys, track everything through offshore buoys and make forecasts based on that. Now, Surfline has transformed into a hub of surf information with live streaming, Op-eds, news, and so much more.

Historically, one of the most iconoclast industry’s undergoing to a digital transformation goes to show you that if you don’t invest in an experience, you might as well quit now. There’s no question about which is more valuable, but SwellInfo will always have a special place in my heart.

Hopefully I’m not a total rusty kook tomorrow morning.

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