Former Pro Surfer Launches New Global Surf Spot App with Help From Big Wave Surfer Ian Walsh
Roni Eshel has been surfing for as long as she can remember. The former pro surfer and Israeli women’s surf champion says she has been blessed to have traveled the world and visited the most beautiful places and amazing waves, but what she was truly searching for she could not find.
Eshel says she saw a disconnect in the way surfers got their daily wave reports. A typical morning for her was checking an array of online forecasts, videos from surf cams, and texting friends to figure out what spot she should surf.
“In the end I still found myself going to check the surf spots around me,” she confesses. “BUT if I got a text with a photo from a friend who is at a good spot, I would drop everything and go!”
She started kicking around the idea of creating a platform that combined the most expert forecasting with a crowd-sourcing tool that allows friends to share which spots are firing with their circle of followers. The idea turned into the goFlow app for iPhones, which has recently announced its partnership with Big Wave surfer Ian Walsh.
For Walsh, the most important piece of the newly updated application was having it synced with a proper surf forecasting system. Because he travels frequently, Walsh uses Stormsurf.com religiously to check the surf, he says. “To have them involved and providing forecasts for the entire world, it really makes it an app that I am constantly returning to for following swells all over the place.”
The new app also provides a 7-day forecast rather than a single day forecast, making it relevant for every zone. When sharing a photo on goFlow, there are tools that allow you to add the wave size, crowds, surf conditions, and overall rating: Awesome, Fun, or Don’t Bother. Surfers can mark their favorite spots and receive notification when the conditions are good, as well as when nearby spots a have swell, and when your friends are surfing.
The app is ideal for traveling, says Eshel, adding that her main goal behind its development was to maximize the amount of time spent in the water surfing great waves, and cut down on time spent searching for them.
“Eighty percent of my time on the phone is looking at swells all over the place, so the input I have been providing has basically been exactly what I would want out of an app that deals with surf forecasting, and creating the option of making the post public or private to be kept between your circle of friends if you don’t want to air it out there that somewhere was pumping,” explains Walsh. “I spend a ton of time texting photos of the waves back and forth with a bunch of friends and this makes it way easier to have everyone in one circle sharing what they scored or didn’t. This is a really easy way to keep connected with people you meet from every corner of the planet through what I feel is my biggest form of making new friends: surfing.”
We caught up with Eshel to get her take on developing the app, working with Walsh, and how she hopes to continue developing the app as a tool for the surfing community based on their feedback and needs.
When did you come up with the concept for this app and who else was involved?
A few years ago the technology around us started to become so amazing with all the smart phones and GPS. Great apps came out solving big problems like “Waze,” and “Yelp,” using the power and the wisdom of the crowd to get accurate information.
I was sure there was something like this for the surfers out there. I was really looking for it and couldn’t find anything!
Surfing is my biggest passion, but I was clueless in tech. I was talking about my idea with a few of my techy friends-- one thing lead to another, and goFlow was born. We couldn’t create goFlow without the amazing surf community in LA and SoCal, that’s where it all started. goFlow grew up slowly. We did an open Beta, and got so much feedback and smart ideas from the community that helped us give the surfers what they really want. We still get lots of amazing feedback and keep improving goFlow all the time based on people's needs, requests, and feedback.
Why did you see a need for this sort of technology in the market today?
There was nothing out there that gives this type of solution! I could only check generic forecasts and a few video-cams, mostly from main spots and mostly in SoCal, so it wouldn’t help much when I traveled - goFlow is global.
I wanted to have accurate information. To know the real surf conditions you need to be out there to watch or to have an eye witness report. Generic reports are only good if there is a swell out there most times, but can’t really tell you where it breaks good or the quality of the waves, the combination of swell size, direction, tide, and wind. Generic forecasts can’t ever predict that.
That’s why I thought it was important to have one platform that would combine both; eye witness/ real-time surf reports and accurate surf forecasts.
We partnered exclusively with the best and most accurate wave and weather forecaster- StormSurf. Stormsurf also happens to work with the best big wave riders like Ian Walsh, who is joining our team to help develop and continuously improve the app for surfers around the world.
How did Ian get involved, and what has been his role since coming on board?
Ian's knowledge as a big wave rider and a very intelligent surfer is why I really wanted to have him join our team. To be a big wave rider you need to have this amazing knowledge of the ocean and know all about the surf conditions and forecasts to really predict in real-time.
This small group of crazy, big wave riders are known to chase those monster swells around the world, and they have to be super accurate with the forecast and understand the maps perfectly. It’s not easy and not cheap at all to travel with all the equipment across the world - you have to know what you're doing.
They all live around the world, they know each other, and they have to share real-time information between them to know when to jump on the next plane and not miss the big swell somewhere in the middle of the Pacific…
All surfers, and top pro surfers would love to know where Ian goes to surf. They just know that where he surfs is going to be the best. I have followed Ian for a long time because I truly respect him as a surfer. He is super smart and intelligent, and an incredible surfer!
I knew I would love to have him with us on the team. His knowledge is exactly what can make goFlow the best app for surfers! We came to him with the idea, and he just got it in a second and understood the vision. His feedback really effects the DNA of the product. We are super excited to have him be a part of our team. It’s inspiring to work with intelligent people, especially when they surf 50 ft. + waves, and they are bringing this knowledge to the platform.
Do you have plans to grow your team of ambassadors?
Yes. I would love that when the time is right.
Do you think this technology would work for applications around snowboarding and skate spots?
I believe that lots of the action sports communities are overlapping, and each one of those communities have their own needs. goFlow has the right platform and tools to solve those needs for other activities as well, and we are already getting requests from different disciplines like skate and snow. We are working on it, and it’s definitely on our future roadmap.
Where do you see the future of digital applications headed? What opportunities and challenges exist in the market now?
The surf community is a very hard community to understand. It has its own rules and lifestyle. There is a big need for an app like goFlow BUT we have to listen to this community and what they want, and play by the community rules. The secret for a good crowd source app: Listen to your community.
Any final thoughts?
Join the goFlow community, and start following Ian Walsh on goFlow to have a sneak-peek into his amazing surf reports from the best spots he surfs around the world. To download the app, follow this link to iTunes: https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/id599718642?mt=8