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Share Surf
Submitted by capdog on Tuesday, August 7, 2007 - 04:43

The ultimate in surf reporting has just arrived: ShareSurf.info is a website that allows communities of surfers and other wave-watchers to share pictures and reports instantly using their cellphone cameras. The incentive for sending in pics is that your business logo and details are displayed next to them. All usage of the site is free.

This concept is blazingly brilliant; the kind of idea that's completely obvious yet nobody else managed to think of it first. It's homegrown here in Durbs but clearly has high hopes of dominating the international market, as you can see on the "country" drop-down box which includes Hawaii, Australia and Brazil. I've given it a test whirl and here are some of my initial thoughts.

For those who aren't familiar with surf culture, a quick introduction: 80% of the time the waves are small and/or crap, which means trying to surf them is highly frustrating. When you work 9 to 5 the best time to go down is at 6 before the sun rises, rather than the late evening, because the wind is more likely to blow offshore at that time. You can imagine how annoying it is to wake up early and make the mission only to find out that you've wasted your time because a howling north-easter has turned the sea into porridge.

There's no foolproof method of predicting when it's going to get good, although you can get a fair idea by using a combination of methods:

  • Checking up on Magic Seaweed daily, a report which takes into account wind, swell size and wave period. They rate on a 5-star system, and also display the tides which can affect your break significantly, depending on where it is.
  • Following up with a check on Wind Guru, another reporting site which often has different forecasts to Magic Seaweed.
  • Noting the current wind direction, from the SA Weather service, which is more frequently updated than the international sites above.
  • Finally, if you're planning on a morning mission, taking into consideration the conditions of the previous night is a good indication. If there's no major storm approaching then chances are it won't be vastly different the next day

The problem is that none of these are perfect, and many a five-star day ends up being a mushy, blown-out disaster. The best thing for any morning surfer would be to have a picture of the ocean before you even get out of bed in the morning.

SurfConditions... old school.SurfConditions... old school.

This is where Surf Conditions tries to fill the gap. It's a site which offers two or three sets of pictures a day for a small monthly fee. The pictures are good quality, but the timing is poor: their first pic of the day is up at 7:00am, which is too late. They also apparently offer a webcam, but unless it's a low-light infrared camera that can see in the dark, it's unlikely you'd be able to see the breaks from the top of a building before the sun came up.

And now, we have Share Surf! Anybody can send in pictures taken with a cellphone camera, and they're distributed to the community via alerts and email.

With a critical mass of users, it really could become the perfect morning reference for the dawn patrol. The carguards from North beach have been early adopters and are posting regular pics of North, Bay and New Pier under the slightly mis-spelt name "Gaurdian Angels"! They have made the biggest contribution so far, and Baron surfboards are not far behind as the other regular cell-tographers.

My favourite features are:

  • RSS feeds: awesome, now I can subscribe to the feed and get pics regularly in Google Reader!
  • The simple upload feature, just send the pic from your cellphone via email or MMS and it's instantly available online.
  • The ability to find new spots, for example there are some shots of Umhloti that are absolutely mouth-watering! I'll definitely be paying them a visit sometime soon.
Umhloti. Sick.Umhloti. Sick.

At the moment Share Surf is in still in beta release, which means there may be a few glitches here and there, as well as some "missing" features that would be great to have:

  • Ability to manage my uploaded pictures: once sent, you lose control of the photos. I'd like to do more with them.
  • Sense of community: I can't comment on pictures, or see who's using the site and who's subscribing to my reports. It would be nice to have those features as well as a counter that keeps track of how many eyeballs are viewing each pic.
  • A voting system: I would like to give a vote or kudos to anyone who uploads before 6:00am, as that's when the pics are most useful to me. Perhaps then those cell-tographers with a large amount of points can get some kind of reward, maybe a front page advertising slot or more coverage on the mailing list, for example.

Overall it's a very impressive idea, and I encourage you to sign up and start taking pictures.

If you have a secret spot, take photos of that too please, with directions to get there! Thanks, and see you in the water!


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Subject:  Hmmm....
Author:  hedmekanik
Date:  7 August, 2007 - 09:38

Niiiice....


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Subject:  Yes indeed. I will be
capdog's picture
Author:  capdog
Date:  7 August, 2007 - 14:01

Yes indeed. I will be snapping pics when I go down in the mornings from now on. Having a 3G phone also helps a bit, I might add. ;)


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Subject:  G*au*rdian Angels
Author:  Iceman (not verified)
Date:  7 August, 2007 - 14:10

capdog its true... i could never spell at school, too busy surfing. We did pick up the error, 'Guardian Angels' has been fixed.

Thanks for the great feedback. The "missing" items are already being worked on with great endeavour.

If anyone has any feedback please do email us from the website.


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Subject:  Surf Reporting...
capdog's picture
Author:  capdog
Date:  8 August, 2007 - 07:04

... ain't as easy as it seems! We hit the beach this morning and it looked seriously flat. So I took this pic of North and sent it in with the caption "1ft... Piddly"

I was almost ready to go home when the guys convinced me otherwise. We hit Bay, and lo-and-behold, there was a 3ft half-surfable wave! It was actually a fun ride.

It just goes to show I guess... wait at least 10 minutes for the set before you judge!


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Subject:  I dare say that the waves
capdog's picture
Author:  capdog
Date:  17 August, 2007 - 07:07

I dare say that the waves were SMOKING this morning! 4-5 ft, no wind, bit rough but awesome nevertheless!


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Subject:  Holy Strawberry-Flavoured Nipple Clamps!
Author:  hedmekanik
Date:  17 August, 2007 - 07:14

Mein gottlieb but this morning musta been one that the big feller upstairs musta cooked up specially for slackers and the unemployed - crystal clear water, a light offshore tickling the palms, and an overnight swell that jumped from lake to overhead. Epic!
And, of course, we are all at work. Well, apart from the slackers and unemployed...tsk, tsk...

go here - http://hedmekania.blogspot.com/


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Subject:  I hate my job and I'm quitting for a surf
Author:  hedmekanik
Date:  17 August, 2007 - 08:30

Just seen more pics of the surf..........fukinnnnshsggGGLFYUFRFUYFGHJVLug!!!!!

epic
epic
epic
epic
epic

stupidly epic.

go here - http://hedmekania.blogspot.com/


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Subject:  Yep, it's THAT good!! ;)
capdog's picture
Author:  capdog
Date:  17 August, 2007 - 08:32

Yep, it's THAT good!! ;)


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Subject:  OOPS UP SIDE YOUR HEAD did a
No lekker man's picture
Author:  No lekker man
Date:  17 August, 2007 - 09:24

OOPS UP SIDE YOUR HEAD
did a lap past there around 6...foooking amazing waves ,,got some pics will send asap...travis we need to start hitting shoreys again..its been to long..


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Subject:  Come on then..
Author:  hedmekanik
Date:  17 August, 2007 - 09:57

I'm all over it like a bad case of smallpox, how's tomorrow, crackers? Gotta be sparrows, heading for the hills to go to a hippy cross-dress jol...now that I write it I realise just how wierd that sounds....

go here - http://hedmekania.blogspot.com/


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Subject:  Cooking Waves
badger's picture
Author:  badger
Date:  17 August, 2007 - 11:50

Any predictions as to whether it's gonna hold until this arvie? I wouldn't mind catching a few more after graft. I certainly hope it's like I remember it was when I left and dragged my tail into work this morning


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Subject:  Hmmm...
Author:  hedmekanik
Date:  17 August, 2007 - 12:00

Doesn't look like it - SE has pulled in.
Funny thing about wavescape - their Friday surf report says Friday 3 Aug...it'll probably be up later for today's breakdown, but what good is a surfcast when it's put up in the late afternoon? In fairness, maybe the o's are getting barreled off their pips and can't be bothered. What we need is a high-definition webcam. None of this blurred drunkencam style that most webcams seem to suffer from.

go here - http://hedmekania.blogspot.com/


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Subject:  It's friday so what the hell
badger's picture
Author:  badger
Date:  17 August, 2007 - 13:54

I'm going down anyway. Nothing better when you're sipping on your first Hansa draft of the evening talking about the surf you've just had on a Friday afternoon...even if it is going to be crappy.


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Subject:  Baron
Author:  Firdinand "the" crow (not verified)
Date:  22 August, 2007 - 14:01

Baron's surf report used to be pretty reliable if you had no access to net, but his son has taken over since baron passed, and it's gone all pear, often no updates, get all the way to where he actually says the report, only to hear "well its friday the 9th of Feb" and its actually like monday.
Jack up Baron jnr.


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Subject:  up date from surfconditiins
Author:  David (not verified)
Date:  29 August, 2007 - 05:11

You have it all wrong about us we do not fill the gap you do we have been doing up dates for more than two years and never had a up date after or at 07h00 in the morning it is always with sunrise.

So maybe you must look again and the webcam is clear as the day start.

But thanks for the free advertising because surfers will make up there own mind once they have seen our website and others.


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Subject:  Just for the record, I am
capdog's picture
Author:  capdog
Date:  29 August, 2007 - 07:34

Hi David, just for the record, I am not affiliated with Share Surf, I just happen to like what they're doing.


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Subject:  updates from surfconditions
Author:  David (not verified)
Date:  29 August, 2007 - 07:55

Good then don’t say other websites are filling gaps, if you do not know what is going on in there’s.


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Subject:  You're right, if Surf
capdog's picture
Author:  capdog
Date:  29 August, 2007 - 08:55

You're right, if Surf Conditions has a webcam that has a clear, live view of the waves at sunrise, then it does "fill the gap".

Time will tell whether people are prepared to pay for this service in the face of community-generated free pictures.

My opinion is that if Share Surf can get a wide enough audience, and react quickly to suggestions and improvements, then it will succeed and become sustainable. All it needs is enough people, and it will work.


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Subject:  up dates
Author:  David (not verified)
Date:  29 August, 2007 - 10:02

Capdog you right time will tell thats why surfconditions has been going for two years alredy and not just two months.
TIME WILL TELL!!!!!


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Subject:  Surfconditions definately more accurate than share surf
Author:  Clyde Louw (not verified)
Date:  29 August, 2007 - 09:21

Do you actually surf Cap Dog? Anyone that cannot tell what Durban is like in the morning is obviously a grommit. Surfconditions offers far more value. They have photo's and a webcam, the best I've seen.
Their committment and dedication is unsurpassed. Surfconditions in fact have proven that relying on others to take the photo's does not work. Waking up at 4h00 every morning in summer takes committment.
I have been a subscriber since their inception 2 yrs ago and working in Pinetown,I am unable to tell what the conditions are like at 12h00
Unless you have photo's every 15 min,they are a waste of time.
Surfconditions only has photo's to back up the webcam in the event
of the cam being down.
Your pics do no justice because the conditions change so quickly in Durban. So really,old school is more likely the market that photo's cater for. Nothing can beat a live webcam. Keep it up Surfconditions!!


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Subject:  Yes, I do surf. You say "I
capdog's picture
Author:  capdog
Date:  29 August, 2007 - 09:52

Yes, I do surf.

You say "I am unable to tell what the conditions are like at 12h00" but you also say "Anyone that cannot tell what Durban is like in the morning is obviously a grommit"

So are you a grommit too then? Or perhaps you're saying it's easier to predict the morning conditions than it is to predict the midday conditions? I'd like to know what you mean exactly.

To say that "Surfconditions in fact have proven that relying on others to take the photo's does not work" is naive. If they have really tried to get others to take pictures, and it has failed, then all it proves is that their method or business model of doing this has failed.

It does not prove that someone else can't come along and do it right.

I will agree with you that nothing can beat a live webcam for accuracy, however a free set of pictures is good enough. Often in life a free option that is good enough will beat a pay-service that is excellent.

Don't get me wrong, I'm open to both methods and Share Surf still has to withstand the 'ol "test of time", but if the initial launch is anything to go by, it will probably work.


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Subject:  Jislaaik
Author:  hedmekanik
Date:  29 August, 2007 - 10:54

Touched a nerve there, Dog?

go here - http://hedmekania.blogspot.com/


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Subject:  Well, I don't think I'm
capdog's picture
Author:  capdog
Date:  29 August, 2007 - 11:19

Well, I don't think I'm being too unreasonable, do you?

Here we have Clyde Louw, who is a partner in the Surf Conditions website (see this letters page), apparently pretending to be a satisfied "customer" of Surf Conditions and raving about his service, as well as making outlandish claims on things that have been "proven".

Then he tries to insult me by calling me a grommit, but seemingly contradicts himself completely in the next few sentences.

I don't want to start a war, but c'mon. Give me a break here.


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Subject:  Kief design
Author:  hedmekanik
Date:  29 August, 2007 - 12:00

Wel, i can't commint on teh qality of there phots, but the desine of the sight is relly mind-blowng: the combinitons of kulours, the rezalushin of the grafics...kief, man.


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Subject:  Who started the war
Author:  Clyde Louw (not verified)
Date:  29 August, 2007 - 13:49

Actually Capdick, Dave Wilmans runs surfconditions, not me.
No hard feelings. Just 2 things. Its much easier to predict the morning conditions in Durban than the afternoon. And secondly, you can't go around insulting other peoples businesses to promote your own interests and then say you don,t want to start a war.
Why don't you subscribe for a month (suppose you would like it free) and view the cam. Then perhaps you would would have a more diplomatic and professional approach to your business and others, and you will realise that surfconditions'service caters mostly for businesses and not people who are cheap. Grow up!


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Subject:  Here goes
capdog's picture
Author:  capdog
Date:  29 August, 2007 - 14:32

On the letters page of Surf Conditions, you say "my partner Dave Wilmans". What does that mean, if not business partner? Do you mean like "life-partner" or something?

Here is exactly what I said, word-for-word, about Surf Conditions (just in case you don't feel like scrolling up to re-read it):

capdog: "This is where Surf Conditions tries to fill the gap. It's a site which offers two or three sets of pictures a day for a small monthly fee. The pictures are good quality, but the timing is poor: their first pic of the day is up at 7:00am, which is too late. They also apparently offer a webcam, but unless it's a low-light infrared camera that can see in the dark, it's unlikely you'd be able to see the breaks from the top of a building before the sun came up."

Notice in my wording that I say apparently, i.e. I don't actually know, in other words it's not possible for me to objectively verify, etc, etc.

When I talk about the pictures being too late, what I'm referring to is the pics that are taken from the pier. You cannot tell me that your photographer manages to upload pictures of 8 different beaches instantaneously at sunrise. It's impossible, my guess is that it would take at least an hour before they are available online.

Would you kindly enlighten all of us on why this is an insult? Seems to me like you're being over-sensitive.

Dave came along and pointed out that the webcam DOES in fact offer early morning pictures that are good quality. Seeing as I have no way to verify this without forking over the cash, I have to take his word, and if you read what I said, it's exactly that:

capdog: "You're right, if Surf Conditions has a webcam that has a clear, live view of the waves at sunrise, then it does "fill the gap".

If someone takes a critical view of your business, there's a right way and a wrong way to approach it. The right way is to engage any misconceptions, and correct them, as Dave has done. The wrong way is to call the person names.

Because that's just terribly embarrassing for Surf Conditions.

Why don't you guys send in a pic of the beach at sunrise, taken by the webcam, and I'll post it here, so that anyone who reads this article can see exactly how good the low-light capabilities of the camera are? That's fair I think.

And secondly, why not post your easy method for predicting morning conditions in Durban? There are loads of people who would be interested in hearing it, including myself.


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Subject:  pic.
Author:  david (not verified)
Date:  30 August, 2007 - 14:42

Were do you want the pic. to go at 06h00? from the cam,
No one can predict the conditions we do not predict the conditions but we all can show it on our websites.
And we not trying to fill the gap we were there long before any other website so may be they are filling the gap with new ways that’s good for those how do not want to pay for a service that good or those how are paying for a excellent services as you said in your comment before.
Thanks,

David


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Subject:  Sample SurfConditions Pics
capdog's picture
Author:  capdog
Date:  31 August, 2007 - 07:20

David has supplied some pictures taken at sunrise from the SurfCondtions camera. As you can see, my assumption about the webcam was wrong, and the pictures are definitely good enough to see what's happening even when it's dark:

Thanks David.


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Subject:  storm in a city cup
kliktrak's picture
Author:  kliktrak
Date:  31 August, 2007 - 08:47

and calm returns to the stormy waters of surf city...

the universe smiles...

KLIKTRAK
http://www.kliktrak.com


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Subject:  Surf reporting
Author:  SteveTuna
Date:  14 September, 2007 - 12:15

Classic finish there kliktrak ...

After reading the little debate here I have this to say ...

I have been surfing for 9 years and grew up on Baron Snr's report... when he passed and his son took over he did a kuck job... agreed.

Surf Conditions were good but having user generated content FREE on a website will no doubt be highly successfull!

Capdog provides a very objective and honest report regarding this issue I dont think he was trying to undermine surf conditions ..


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Subject:  Surfconditions and Sharesurf
Author:  Richie B (not verified)
Date:  5 October, 2007 - 22:30

Ha ha ha ... classic tangle there okies! Just to clarify upfront, I'm one of the 3 partners of Sharesurf, so no hidden guises. I'm also a fairly average surfer, with a distinct leaning to below average, in case anyone chooses to call me names. I'm actually so inexperienced that I thought a 'grommet' was just a young oke - who could also be a ripper - whereas a 'kook' was something you would call someone when trying to insult them. But that's another story altogether.

I know I'm long past the fact and this blog stands the risk of no-one ever reading it, but I just want to clarify sharesurf's angle so there's no confusion.

First and foremost, I have the ultimate respect for surfconditions and it was actually when I watched their blank home page with photos turning to a page lined with sponsors that I realised they were doing something very right.

Secondly, Sharesurf's greatest point of difference is our patented technology that allows a cellphone picture to get uploaded straight to a website. I agree 100% that content will make or break us, but we are a team of businessmen and surfers with the correct tools at hand and you can rest assured that we will continue to tweak the model and we WILL get it right i.e. free and up to date pictures of your favourite surf break(s).

Finally, our aim as busy people and passionate surfers is simply to provide a service for other office bound surfers, not to compete. Look at Wavescape .... Spike puts links to all other surf sites he rates on his site because first and foremost he wants people to get accurate info and thus classic waves. This is exactly our plan.

So, I like 'filling the gap' as opposed to 'competing head-on' as it suggests less cannibalization of each other's clientele. If the latter happens then surfconditions is more than welcome, actually encouraged, to put one or two tantalising photos a week on our site with a link through to their site that appears under each and every photo that says: "Check out more pictures at surfconditions". An advertising punt for the cost of a few monthly mms' - alternatively they can email the pictures and then their advertising is free.


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Subject:  Share Conditions
Author:  elroy (not verified)
Date:  16 October, 2007 - 13:43

Great conclusion there Richie B. Interesting that you yourself are not a very proficient surfer - were you to drop in on me yes I would call you both a grommet and a kook.

Anyway I think competition is good for any business and in this case will allow the market to develop according to the preferences of surfers themselves.

I for one have greatly enjoyed the updated images I receive on a daily basis from sharesurf and believe this simply extends and compliments the service already provided by surfconditions. As long as you both stay away from the secluded surf spots I think you're doing the surfing community a great service with your webcam and picture images.

Lets shareconditions and hope that Richie B improves his surfing ability one day!


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