The Internet is no longer free — at least for Surfline users. In a move to generate additional revenue, online surf forecaster Surfline has begun charging users for its “premium services.” The subscription, which went into effect on October 24, costs $29.95 a year and includes Surfline’s acclaimed Lola surf forecasting model. Its other services, such as beach reports, live cameras, and general content, will remain free.
“I want to thank all of you for your many years of loyalty and support,” said Surfline Director Sean Collins in a statement on surfline.com. “As you know these are tough economic times, especially in the advertising market, and for Surfline to continue … we need your help.”
According to John Cecil, Surfline vice president of sales, more than 700 people have already signed up for the service. Subscribers have two options: five dollars a month or an annual fee of $29.95. “Eighty percent have made year-long commitments of $29.95,” adds Cecil.
Surfline has offered free access to its surf forecasts since 1995, so why start charging users now? “These are businesses that need to make money,” says Cecil. “Surfline spent a lot of money getting its forecasting information together and ultimately they need to charge a little bit of money for it.”
Although Surfline generated revenue through online advertisements, it’s not enough to make a substantial impact. “The model struggles,” says Cecil. “The Web model has to go to more of a magazine level, and you’ll see Surfline and Swell kind of doing that selling subscriptions.”
For many Surfline users, the news was disappointing. The forum on Swell.com was peppered with opinions about the Surfline’s decision to shift from free to paid access. Comments ranged from downright anger to a sense of understanding.
“Surfline, go f–k yourself,” writes one user named “movana.” “Surfline.com: suck my d-ck,” writes another user.
However, others were more sensible and showed support for Surfline’s decision to start charging for its forecasts. “Surfline has created a valuable product — a convenient and efficient way to check the surf,” writes “Bart.” “The result is my spending more time in the water surfing quality waves. I will gladly pay for that.”
“Ima Kook” agrees: “The way I see it, you can either pay Exxon for all the gas you burn driving around looking for surf or pay Surfline. It’s a no brainer. These guys bust ass so we can get more waves. That’s worth my coin.”
This fall, Swell investors announced they were splitting Swell and Surfline into two different companies: commerce and media. Wednesday’s announcement was the first of many manifestations of that plan. Part of the revision includes transforming Swell into an online surf shop (commerce) and making “Surfline.com” the main name for the Web site (media). Eventually Surfline.com will include a Web component from Surfing and Surfing Girl magazines. Cecil says the transition will be complete by the end of the year.
Surfline’s $29.95 annual fee only allows access to the company’s Lola surf-model forecasting. It does not give subscribers free access to some of Surfline’s other popular forecasting services like Wavefax, 976-SURF, and 1-800-SURFLINE. Those services are available for an additional fee.
While surfers must pay to use Surfline, there are many free Web sites that track swell movements, weather patterns, and tides. “The Internet is a huge place and I know there’s a wealth of information out there,” says Collins. “Some of you may opt to look for free information elsewhere and may choose not to sign up. That’s OK, and I respect your choice. But I promise you that Surfline will continue to provide our customers with the best surf information you’ll find anywhere.”