With ice forming on the beaches, snow in the air and one of the coldest winters ever on the cards, 2010 has so far dictated that getting in the water must be a precise, calculated and efficient affair. If frostbite is going to claim my digits I want to bag a session that makes it worth it.
When it’s blowing a blizzard outside, turning to the internet for valuable wave information is the obvious answer, but up until now, surf websites and I haven’t exactly been seeing eye to eye. I’ve tried my hardest to get on good terms with windguru, magicseaweed and the rest, but although they try hard, sometimes they just don’t get it right.
Although still a favourite on my tool bar, magicseaweed can be a bit unreliable if the buoys are being bombarded – it seems all too easy for them to get thrown of kilter so that the online report is left flipping the swell direction and wave period around like a metronome on overdrive. I’ve often stayed in on a dreary winter’s day because I’ve logged on, seen 25 mile an hour cross shores and a five second wave period only to speak to my more fortunately located friends to find out the reports got it wrong and a clean headhigh offshore wave was breaking on the push.
The webcam based sites aren’t much better. A revelation when it was launched, tiger24 offered streamed footage and stills of major beaches across the Southwest. However, with out of date images and offline cameras a regular issue, it can be hard to tell whether you’re looking at a recent shot or being conned into throwing your wetsuit in the car on the promise of some crisp winter water time only to be greeted by the onshore blustery mush of reality.
Gwithianlines can be similarly deceptive. It’s a great little website if you happen to want to surf within an hour window of when the snap of the break is taken and uploaded, not so ideal if you are basing your afternoon’s surf decisions on a shot taken at 07:51am.
Now I know all this points towards the fact that there really is nothing that beats getting out there and checking for yourself, getting to know your local breaks and when they will be working – but it isn’t that easy if you work, if your green conscience keeps biting you in the back every time your engine chugs into life, or if you don’t have the necessary supernatural knowledge of wind and tide to be able to make the right call time and time again. For people like me who sit in all three camps, sometimes a push in the right direction can be mighty helpful. So where to turn…
Enter Twitter, your new best friend. Yes, I was a sceptic at first too – the luddite in me is always clawing to get out, but I was introduced to social ‘i-balling’ over Christmas and I’ve never looked back. Armed with an i-phone and a twitter account you’re able to find out exactly how the coast is looking from other like-minded tweeting surfers who are scouring local spots and telling you the score, so you can make the most informed decision possible.
Surfers of a technological persuasion are tweeting when they arrive, before they get in and when they get out, letting you know what the conditions are like, how the wind is looking, even what board to use. It’s like having a dozen sets of eyes in 12 places at once and of course when you arrive at your destination you can retweet to pass the love on to the next surfer who logs on hunting for a wave. If you start out following one tweeting surfer you’ll be amazed how quickly your local network grows, with everyone sharing what their seeing for others to benefit from.
Of course there are arguments for and against this kind of remote information sharing and I am sure a few of the more secretive among you are retching at the idea of sharing tip offs with total strangers electronically, but I love the simplicity and openess of it – it’s just an extension of checking in with your mates; one localised, continuous conversation that keeps everyone updated, a share and share alike attitude that doesn’t rely on data, or buoys or webcams, just eyeballs, a touch of the modern electrical and a honesty and friendliness that’s surely what surfing should be all about. And yes there’s the overcrowding issue to take into consideration, but most of the tweeting surfers do it with care, reporting on conditions at the main beaches where everyone is likely to head anyway – letting you know the score so that you can easily work out if it will be working at that secret spot nearby.
So there, I said it. Twitter and the i-phone are good things. I like them. I use them. They make surfing better for me and for lots of other people. They are a valuable addition to the technological smorgasboard that is surf reporting today.
What do you have to say about that?