Sunday, August 17, 2014

Learned From Surfing: The Importance of Business Intelligence

Thanks to Hollywood, many people might think that surfers are just stupid bums and a not well educated bunch.

But that is very far from the truth.

Many surfers today are great weather forecasters and take advantage of the latest technology from satellite imagery, including mathematical models combined with local weather forecasts to maximize their surfing experience.

We can reasonably predict where and when the best surfing condition will emerge about one week ahead. By 3 days prior we can almost determine when, down to a 1-hour window, and where to go to get the best waves.

Here is How Surfers Do It

About 30 days or so ahead, we in California look at the global weather models and watch for storms in the Alaskan gulfs or near Australia. This is a combination of remote sensing data from buoys scattered around the ocean as well as satellite imagery. The National Weather Service has supercomputers to work the model out and publishes the model diagrams on their web sites.

Speaking of big data analysis, the weather service department is one of the earliest users of supercomputers to help commerce, agriculture and military strategies. Surfers use this high tech data to determine the direction and power of the waves.

By about a week prior to a surf date, our local buoys will start to sense the arrival of the waves generated thousands of miles away a few weeks before. Local wind conditions and tide levels are the most important elements in determining the surf experience and best locations, and it is possible to predict this. We can start to mark our calendars for the next week’s sessions, and this becomes super accurate about 3 days prior.

Locally we also know which direction of the waves, winds and tide level will work the best. Some beaches are opened up toward the north, others toward the south. We even know about the local geography and the shape of the ocean floor, which can maximize our surf experience.

Lessons Learned

  • Today, surfers are cutting a lot of wasted time driving around searching for waves. Knowledge is power. Advanced planning and intelligence can help avoid wasted time and money.
  • These days, we have many different tools to analyze trends, usage, competitions just by looking for them on the search engine or going to analytic sites and can really give you fairly accurate grasps. 
  • If you want to see another perspective on this from another surfer / entrepreneur, please check out my friend's blog post, The Silicon Valley life, fun and work chronicled by Craig Oda

If you'd like to find out more about this, the Storm Surf web site is the best place to go. The master of the site, Mark Sponsler, does the surf prediction for big surf contests like the Mavericks invitational.