Surf’s up with Israeli surfing champ’s crowdsourced reports

Roni Eshel was searching for a better way to get the word out about good surf sites – and came up with goFlow

goFlow screenshot (Courtesy)
goFlow screenshot (Courtesy)

With miles and miles of seashore, Israel is a surfer’s paradise – and now an Israeli entrepreneur has designed an app that will help surfers take better advantage of local and international surf sites.

“Surfers are always looking for the perfect wave, and my app, goFlow, helps them to find it,” said Roni Eshel, who designed the app.

Eshel knows what surfers want; she’s one herself, having won the 2011 Israeli Women’s Surfing Championships. After her win, she toured world surfing spots, ending up in Los Angeles – where she is working on popularizing goFlow.

And popular it has become. Surfing magazines, websites and social media have embraced the app, as have surfing celebrities like Ian Walsh, one of Hawaii’s most famous surfing pros.

“For years I’ve been thinking about a better and more reliable way to get local surf reports,” said Walsh. “Usually I just call friends to see where they surfed and how it was and go based on who I trust most. Then I came across goFlow and it was essentially that. It allows me to see where my friends have been surfing and how good it was in one easy step.”

goFLow expands that “trust community” for Walsh and other app users by crowdsourcing information on surf conditions, said Eshel. Users report on conditions at beaches using a slider that rates the quality of waves (no typing required), size of the crowds, wave heights, weather, winds, and other essential surfing information.

The app automatically uploads reports to goFlow servers, where it is analyzed and downloaded to other users based on location, with the app showing by default conditions at nearby surfing sites (users can manually search for any site anywhere in the world that the app has reports for). Users can also upload videos and photos, and the app also has a seven-day surfing forecast feature.

Users can send reports to all community members, or just to their own surfing crew – in order to avoid attracting crowds to a top surfing spot.

“The conditions are always changing, so when the right waves come in at a specific beach, surfers flock to it,” said Eshel. “If a surfer finds the right spot at the right time, they don’t want all the other surfers in the neighborhood to descend on it – just their friends. goFlow makes that possible.”

Roni Eshel (Courtesy)
Roni Eshel (Courtesy)

While there are many apps that provide real-time weather information and even data on how crowded beaches are, there aren’t any others that allow users to easily report on wave heights and other surfer-centered issues.

“The app lets a community member file a report in under 15 seconds, so it’s much more convenient to use than other social media,” said Eshel. “And surfers know they are much more likely to quickly find the information they need on goFlow than in other apps, because the information is created by them and directed at them.”

In towns with big surfing scenes, there are services that provide information on surfing conditions – in Los Angeles, for example, there are sites that track webcams in real time, and a site called Surfline provides information for surfers – but Eshel says that both these methods have drawbacks. The camera site doesn’t provide location data, and the information on Surfline is often outdated (because it is a few hours old).

“Eyewitness reports and crowdsourced information is the only way to provide accurate, real-time information on surfing conditions,” said Eshel.

It’s also, she believes, the only way to provide accurate information on other sports, like boating, diving, fishing, kitesurfing, golfing, skateboarding, skiing – basically any outdoor sport that is dependent on weather or other conditions. “We recently raised $500,000 from angel investors and an early-stage venture capital firm, and we have other investments in the works,” said Eshel. “The investors are so excited about the app that they want to us to expand to other sports. We are developing features for ten sports now.”

The app is free, and it’s likely to remain so.

“We are planning on adding new features that users can subscribe to for a fee, and we are talking to brands that serve the surfing community for sponsorship and partnership,” said Eshel. “I’ve been to many great surfing spots, and everywhere surfers have the same concern – finding the right wave at the right time. I realized that technology could solve that issue, and goFlow is the product of that realization.”

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