Swell.com In Negotiations To Buy Surfline

Just days after the news broke that swell.com, an Internet start up based in San Francisco, had hired three editors from Surfer Magazine, comes another significant development in this rapidly developing dot.com drama.

It appears negotiations are well underway for swell.com to purchase Surfline, a leader in the surf forecasting business that was pioneered by meteorological guru Sean Collins in 1995. According to Surfline Marketing Director David Gilovich, “There are certain restrictions on what we can talk about, but I can say that we’re having meaningful discussions with them swell.com.”

Gilovich, who says completion of the deal is still pending, does predict that a final decision will be made by the end of this month.

“There have been a great number of suitors in the past few months, but now we are negotiating exclusively with one,” says Gilovich, who laughs that during this time he’s often felt as if Surfline was, “The cutest girl at the dance.”

He says the decision to sell was predicated on the need to take Surfline to the next level. “We’ve been at this since 1995, plugging away, adding surf cams all over the world. Now we have almost a million visits a month. The idea was to align ourselves with someone who could create something new for our customers.”

So if the deal goes through, will Surfline radically change the type of content it provides? “I wouldn’t say radically change,” says Gilovich, “I would say radically augment.”

When it was speculated that a Surfline/swell.com partnership could offer forecasting of swells, live coverage of those swells at choice spots around the globe, e-commerce, and even the ability for the average surfer to book a trip on one of these trips, Gilovich replied, “It could be all that and more.”

Swell.com would certainly benefit from Surfline’s Web traffic. However, since more of Surfline’s revenue is still generated by telephone forecasts than its Web site, it will be interesting to follow how Surfline’s business model is changed by any potential purchase. However, Gilovich says the revenue from the Web site is quickly catching up to that from the phone service.

Subscribers currently pay ten dollars a month for 30 minutes worth of 1-800-Surfline swell forecasts.

The addition of Sean Collins and David Gilovich would seem to further strengthen the staff at Swell.com, which includes former Surfer editors Steve Hawk and Evan Slater, Surfer’s Group Publisher Doug Palladini, and Associate Editor Matt Walker.

TransWorld SURF Business will continue to follow this story as it develops.