In the sporting world, there is a divide between fans and professional athletes that gets bridged a little more with every passing year. Fans can follow their favorite athletes and interact with them on social media, use team websites to track statistics, and keep track of the score from multiple devices, while simultaneously watching the game. The use of all this technology has brought the game to the fans’ level. Spectators gear up for their favorite sports with each new season, be it the NBA, NHL, MLS, NFL, or some other league.
One sport, however, differs quite a bit, in that the season is year-round and the action takes place in the water, far from spectator eyes, making it difficult for fans to capture the genuine athlete experience.
In the world of professional surfing, the athletes are not dictated by a set season, but, rather, by the waves that, like an animal coming out of hibernation, emerge at various times of the year all around the globe. These famous waves are produced in places that include the Gold Coast of Australia, Teahupo’o off the coast of Tahiti, and Pipeline in Hawaii. Portugal, Bali, France, and more are also included in the round up of prized surfing locations.
The waves that rear their heads in these spots around the world display unmatchable beauty; a white feathering at the top of the waves that crests down to merge into a full spectrum of blues, from the palest turquoise to the darkest indigo. That beauty, however, is deceptive. These waves are some of the largest and heaviest in the world, and it is the goal of professional surfers to ride them.
For the fans of professional surfing, watching the competition would have at one point meant standing on the shore, far away from the action. The introduction of new technology into the world of surfing has upended the previous ways of watching the sport. There are a variety of new technologies being welcomed in the surfing world, and these range from the use of carbon fiber and epoxy in the production of lighter and more flexible surfboards, to the use of drones and GoPro cameras to catch the action from a previously unimagined close-up perspective.
Previously, helicopters were used to capture surfing footage, resulting in distractions for surfers during the time when they need the deepest concentration, not to mention the choppy water that got kicked up by the helicopter’s propeller blades.
In order to remedy this situation and get the fans a closer look at surfing from the professional’s perspective, wearable devices, drones, and Go Pros were brought to the mix.
Wearable devices provide up-to-the minute data on the weather, specifically wind and changes in the ocean’s currents, which, in turn, affect the quality, shape, and size of the waves; and help surfers determine which waves are likely to earn the highest score in competition. These devices also update both the surfers and their fans with wave scores and analysis as the action unfolds. One such example of these devices includes the Glassy Pro One waterproof smartwatch, which tracks surf data, like the number of waves caught, duration of the rides, the wave speeds, and fluctuating weather conditions.
In addition to wearable devices, drones are being utilized in professional surfing to give viewers a birds-eye view of the waves, without the previously mentioned difficulties that helicopters presented. Drone cinematography provides stunning vantage points of the waves, as they slowly roll towards shore before curling up into the massive waves that are so appealing for those brave enough to ride them. The drones are able to fly low over the waves, without becoming intrusive enough to ruin a surfer’s concentration.
GoPro cameras are yet another step in this surfing plus technology mix. While wearable devices provide up-to-the minute data, and drones provide a close up overhead view, Go Pros take the fans even closer by placing them directly into the action. Go Pros can be attached to a surfer’s board or body, to provide incredible, frightening, and awe-inspiring vantage points, as these athletes propel themselves down the massive cliff faces of these waves. This gives the athletes and their fans the opportunity to share in the surfing experience together.
Paul Speaker, Chief Executive Officer of the Association of Surfing Professionals, stated in an interview for CNBC: “Our goal is to get as close to the experience the surfer is having.”
As the technology continues to advance, surfing fans will keep gaining a more accurate perspective on what their favorite pro athletes experience each time they take their boards into the ocean.