New app turns paltry little surf contests into dazzling high-tech events!
Lately, I’ve come to enjoy, very much, thrashing around in little surf contests. It’s a thrill to feel so aroused, so vital, in these fifteen-minute, six-man club heats.
Your heart beats perilously fast. You catch a wave and twitch and gesture to try and get your fives and sixes. For tiny parcels of time keen eyes study and judge your surfing. It’s alternately flattering and crushing.
Until recently, judges would write down scores on pieces of paper, hand ’em over to some sort of tabulator, who’d write ’em on a whiteboard and then work out who went through and so on.
All very bush league.
And, then, one day I walked down to an event and was surround by computer screens with live scoring, judges with tablets, live heat times, instant results, all through an app called LiveHeats.
All very WSL.
Better than WSL.
Before the event, your invitation to enter comes via text. Stab your fingers at your phone a couple of times and you’re registered. You know your heat time, and if there’s any delays the time is constantly adjusted, and who you’re surfing against.
I remember being in Israel with Oz Wright and Otis Carey a year or so before and as part of their free trip they had to agree to compete in the country’s first WSL event there. Took ’em four hours on their phones to get their entry in.
How’d little surf clubs get so tech?
The Australian pro surfer Chris Friend, who has a biz degree (economics major) and his computer whiz pal Fernando, figured they could build a simple interface that would change the game. No MS-DOS with its local networks, clunky monitors and print-outs.
Just tablets and phones all linked through the one pretty, and seamless, interface. It’s like when you first played with an Apple computer after being tortured by PCs for years.
Why did it take so long to get so good?
Thirty-three clubs around Australia pay $99 a day to use it, as well as Surfing Victoria, Surfing Canada and SUP South Africa. LiveHeats has also administered a couple of hundred overseas events from Canada to Nicaragua.
And, soon, maybe the WSL might wet its beak.
“I think we can help create a seamless competitor experience for surfers on the QS and CT,” says Chris, who was rated #100 on the qualifiers a few years back. “Currently, the system for entering QS events isn’t connected to your comp experience so you’d have to go to the comp site to find out what heat you surf in and then use the spectator’s site to see your past results and rating. Surfers in LiveHeats-powered comps can login to their dashboard to enter and pay for events, see their upcoming heat time to the minute, see their jersey colour, as well as track all previous heat results and scores.”
Of course, it isn’t the most uplifting thing to see a year’s worth of thrashing distilled into a handful of threes and fours (best wave in an entire year of contests, a six-five), but what can I say?
Surfing ain’t that easy.