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twitpic_grab_small_webForget unreliable surf report websites, frozen webcams and gas guzzling hunts up and down the coastline – there’s a new way of checking the surf. Tweeting.

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.

gwithianlines_grab_webThe 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 However, with out of date images and offline cameras a regular issue, it can be hard to tell whether you’re looking at a recent shot or being conned into throwing your wetsuit in the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.

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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.

twitpic_grab_webSurfers 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?

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  • Kat

    I’m doing it for two twitter accounts (@carvemag and @surfgirlmag); it’s then fed into the websites and blogs. And facebook, when HootSuite integrates that. I don’t know that I’d do it as a personal thing…or only, again, for main beaches. The MagicSeaweed app lets you upload reports to their eyeball pages – I do this for Fistral. Walking the dog anyway, so why not?

    Sometimes I have an old-school reaction – sod the tweeting, I’m just getting in there. Sometimes I get sick of pulling my iPhone out at every snappable/tweetable opportunity. Techno-boring myself!

    Today it’s so misty I can’t tell how big it is. I can hear waves…but I can’t get to them…

  • Ben

    Thanks for the feedback Clare – we spend a lot of time working on the forecast on magicseaweed and sometimes you can get a little too close for your own good, so always useful to step back and hear an unbiased opinion (we tend to get love or hate and less objective critique between the two). We introduced a new feature a while back which we called the ‘multiswell’ view, which in a nutshell showed you that low period wind swell that won’t make a wave on the beach AND the sneaky incoming groundswell that would – we’ve been using pretty much nothing else since then ourselves and scoring some sessions we know we’d have missed otherwise. It’s given us the continued confidence that the forecast data IS really very very reliable, but our presentation of it is missing a beat and with that in mind we’ve spent the last six months working on a new version which intelligently picks the swell it thinks most likely to make a decent wave and displays this first. Your forecast still looks very similar (and you can still drill down and see all the swell running) but it gets round the problem you mention here and makes for, we hope, a much easier to use forecast that more regularly gets you to the right place at the right time. Great timing for us that your (justified) critisism hits when we hope to have the issue fixed in the next couple of weeks.

    Interesting also the Twitter writeup – we’ve just built and are testing an addition to Magicseaweed which allows you to snap the surf with your phone, upload it instantly and then share it online. Where I think we’re different to Twitter for surf forecasting is that while we run a busy ‘public’ forecast we do recognise that a great many surfers won’t want to share their sessions with whole world, with the magicseaweed version you will be able to if you choose (although only tied to one of our main listed spots) – but probably more relevant for most of us is you’ll be able to share your eyeballs with just your friends (via MSW or facebook) or a group and tie them to the actual spots you’re surfing (which of course might be ones you don’t want to broadcast) which I think is closer to the way most of us would want to do it.

  • Twitter is indeed useful to get live tweets from people you follow who have checked the surf (although also frustrating when you’re stuck in the office and everyone is tweeting about how good it is, and then uploading a pic to really rub it in).

    However it’s worth mentioning that many ‘surf report sites’, such as A1Surf.com, Eyeball-Surfcheck and Magicseaweed do also have ‘live human surf checks’, as well as displaying automated forecasts or other data sources.

    At A1Surf.com we are always looking for people to give us live surf checks, plus our users can ‘comment’ live on the report pages to update fellow users.if conditions change throughout the day.

    Any way of getting more waves (however you do it) is a good thing, although no doubt some feel that more ways to check the surf = more crowds.

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