"The idea came from Gideon Silverman, an entrepreneur and a lifelong surfer who used to be a product manager at Google," says Taylor Paul, the media director for the new board-sharing platform, Awayco. "He was on Maui traveling with his wife and he was trying to find a decent rental board and just couldn't find one. He was like, 'How is this not easier? Traveling with boards can be a pain, so why isn't there a way you could travel without boards?'"
Since their launch, Awayco has opened nearly 30 locations worldwide, stacked full of shortboards, twin fins, asymmetricals, longboards and everything in between. And for $60 a month, members have access to whatever stick they want—either at home or while looking for waves abroad. In theory, Awayco could revolutionize the way people look at surf equipment, allowing surfers to travel without amassing hefty board bag fees and try out a wide array of new designs before purchasing one from a shaper or surf shop.
It shouldn't be surprising that it was a person from Silicon Valley—an area that pioneered the sharing and gig economies—who created a left-field solution to a long-standing problem in surfing. And perhaps this just marks the beginning of tech and app moguls seeing financial opportunity in making our surf lives simpler, easier and, well, smarter.
"Surfing is incredibly popular and trendy right now in San Francisco and Silicon Valley," says Paul. "I heard a board buyer at one of our shops in Central California say that that surfing is the new rock climbing—all the techies are loving it. And you see that reflected in the water. On an approachable, small day it's really crowded up there. But at the same time, those people are some of the best and brightest minds in the world, and to have those minds thinking about our world in a problem-solving kind of way is a really valuable thing. I think will bring about a lot of positive change."
What might that change look like, you ask? Well, here are just a few ideas (you're welcome, Silicon Valley) of potential future surf tech and apps based on some of the most disruptive innovations that have hit the mainstream in recent years.
This one seems like a no-brainer. The app would allow drivers with board racks or ample trunk space to charge their fellow surfers for rides to the beach. Higher ratings will go to drivers who keep wax on hand and offer local knowledge on where to best capitalize on a particular tide and swell. Good luck finding any available drivers when it's 6 foot and offshore, though.
Recently, Stanford University football players have been using a virtual reality platform called "STRIVR," which allows athletes to practice plays in a simulated football game. In a video produced by ESPN, a barrel-chested man stands in a small office with a VR display mounted to his head, moving around with a fake football in his hand, eventually throwing it to a simulated wide receiver somewhere in his view. Members of U.S. Ski and Snowboard team reportedly used the software to train for the 2018 Winter Olympics in South Korea, so why not create a surf simulation to help us master foam-ball sections or lofty punts when the waves are flat?
Wearable Wetsuit Technology
Using GPS devices to gather data around physical activities is nothing new. In the surf world we've had the Rip Curl Search watch, Trace and the Apple Watch's Dawn Patrol app. This type of tech currently collects data points from each session, including top speeds, wave count, heart rate, the distance both surfed and paddled, and even the angle of your turns. So where can our hunger for data in surf go from here? Imagine if, instead of drawing data from a single point, like a watch or a GPS device on your board, there were multiple devices integrated into your wetsuit, capable of measuring the bend in your knees or the positioning of your hands, which you could compare to data collected on the best surfers in the world in order to see how you stack up and what you need to work on. It could provide far more tangible information to help you improve. It could also be humiliating to see mathematically how far your surfing is from the pros.
Ever heard of Dave Asprey? He's the guy who developed Bulletproof Coffee—a blend of coffee beans, coconut oil and grass-fed ghee that is claimed to bolster energy levels and cognitive function (it's basically what Silicon Valley runs on). Asprey's most-recent venture revolves around a neurostimulation device called Halo Sport—a Beats by Dre-looking headset athletes wear when working out. The headset is supposedly able to electrically stimulate certain parts of your brain responsible for muscle movement and therefore able to accelerate the time it takes to develop muscle memory for a certain physical movement. Imagine newbies being able to throw stylish tail blows after just a few sessions because they're hooked up to gadgets that speed up the learning process. The downside, of course, would be having even more competent surfers taking set waves from the rest of us.
Last year, Red Bull partnered with a company called Proto3000 to produce a 3D-printed board for Mick Fanning. The goal was to duplicate an exact replica of one of Fanning's magic boards, which apparently took over 100 hours to print. The board turned out to be way too heavy (12 pounds), but the company says they're working on ways to minimize the weight. Does this signal a future where surfers buy personal 3D printers instead of quivers? I can already hear handshapers around the world sharpening their pitchforks.