Surfers turn to cyberspace to find where best breaks are
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 is www.surfscape.co.za, 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 www.surf conditions.co.za, 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.