Surfers turn to cy­berspace to find where best breaks are

Weekend Argus (Saturday Edition) - - NEWS - DUN­CAN GUY

WANT to know whether it’s worth get­ting out of bed for that morn­ing surf ?

Where surfers used to have to take a chance, or rely on word-of-mouth, now they’re turn­ing to cy­berspace to find the best breaks. Among the most pop­u­lar is­s­, the brain­child of Cape Town surfer and site owner Steve Pike, who says the site had 30 000 vis­its last month.

While the site may be based in Cape Town, it’s serv­ing surfers around the coun­try, of­fer­ing them an idea of con­di­tions every­where from the Or­ange River mouth to Sod­wana Bay, the chance to read up on analy­ses and, in some cases, even view pho­to­graphs of the breaks.

Now Pike, who writes a col­umn in Week­end Ar­gus, hopes to add a beach­watch sys­tem that of­fers live video stream­ing of the ocean off Cape Town, rather than still im­ages.

But surfers have plenty of cyber op­tions, both lo­cal and in­ter­na­tional.

“It has rev­o­lu­tionised things,” says Dur­ban surfer and oceanographer Lisa Guastella, a sub­scriber to sites in­clud­ing David Wil­mans’s con­di­, which car­ries fre­quent stills im­ages from a cam­era that pans across around 5km of Dur­ban’s beach­front, from eThek­wini Beach to New Pier.

Wil­mans’s cam­era also feeds to Pike’s site.

“I have got a win­dow into his world. It saves me petrol and time. I can hone in on one beach and see not only the breaks but also the crowds,” says Guastella. Based on this, she can de­cide where to en­ter the wa­ter with her board. “In the past we re­lied on Baron Stander’s re­port on East Coast Ra­dio.”

Wil­mans’s cam­era is in his Snell Pa­rade flat that over­looks Snake Park and the Bay of Plenty.

Wil­mans says that us­ing the in­ter­net to look for the break of the mo­ment is use­ful to surfers who live slightly in­land, where winds are dif­fer­ent to those at the beach.

Ide­ally, Wil­mans would like his cam­era to be higher up, where it used to be on the rooftop 21 storeys above the sixth-storey win­dow sill of his home. He says, how­ever, that it was trou­ble­some run­ning two modems, one in his flat and the other, a water­proof one, on the roof. Then there were the birds. “They would sit on the aerial and click it down. There would be no con­nec­tion.”

Wil­mans also learned by trial and er­ror that vis­i­tors to his site would con­trol the cam­era. “They would zoom in on to girls on the beach. One day I was sit­ting watch­ing and they zoomed in on me. I quickly changed it so they could no longer do it.”

Some­times the cam­era needs to be re­set. Once this hap­pened when Wil­mans was on hol­i­day in Mau­ri­tius. “Af­ter a cou­ple of days, the SMSes just start­ing com­ing in.”

A surfer him­self, Wil­mans be­came im­mersed in the sport dur­ing his national ser­vice in the Navy – in Pre­to­ria. “My friends were all from Dur­ban and we used to come down here at week­ends to surf,” he says.

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