Welcome to Coastalwatch Plus
Hi, and thanks for taking the time to check out Coastalwatch plus.
As I write this from Kula Lumpur Airport, Jeremy Flores has just emerged from an unfathomably heavy three-inch Tahitian slab in the corner of my screen; his second perfect ten of his heat. Minutes later he’s thanking his fans around the world from a similarly shrunken boat bobbing in cyberspace. It's kinda surreal.
I’m en route to the Maldives. There’s a surf comp there this week. Five ex-world champions from Nat Young to Occy, a heap of cash on offer and by all accounts, the kind of opulence only glass-floored, over-the-reef accommodation can provide. But that’s a day away. Until then I’ll have to be content with the departure lounge’s faux woodgrain.
Back home, the cams remind me I’m not missing much, while out west in the Indian Ocean a pincushion of virtual buoys reveals a similar story. The world-wide-web put me in the channel for maxed-out Teahupoo yesterday, but today it’s cast me as a surfer of misfortune. My 6’8” is unlikely to see much action on this trip.
When surfers like Ross Phillips set out to scour these same Indian Ocean atolls for surf back in the ’90s, swell forecasting was in its infancy. Waves would come when they did; the boards you had were those you rode, and the first your mates would hear about it was when you shared a yarn over a few beers. As Indonesia’s now-crowded reefs and burgeoning surf charter fleet slipped quietly below my Malaysian Airlines flight last night, it struck me that when Nat Young claimed his first World Title back ‘66, Bali was still an untapped resource - hell, much of the New South Wales coast was still an unknown entity – and a lot has changed within the course of one surfing life.
Across the Bali Straight on Java’s Southwest tip, Grajagan was still an alluring mental snapshot for Gerry Lopez back then; a glimpse through a plane window that took him months to track down. Today, you can investigate in seconds on Google Earth and watch footage from Mark Mathews visit last swell simply by clicking here.
The surfing world is a much smaller place. Currents of information swirling around the globe and the increasing pressures of our working lives have forced changes in our perception of time and distance, and ultimately our surfing.
Coastalwatch has played a small part in that change. Since 1998, we’ve connected Australians to their coast through our networks of cameras and reporters, covered the issues affecting our coastline, and kept track of what’s going on over the horizon so you can be in the water when it counts. We’ve copped a bit of flak in the process, but we’re proud to be an integral part of so many Australian’s surfing lives.
Few of us today have the luxury of yesterday’s surfers who spent months waiting for swells. But with tools like the Wavetracker you can pinpoint exactly what’s coming to jump in a car or plane, or simply set the alarm for an early at home, when it counts. Surf trip are not dead, they’re just different, and surfing itself, from simple after-work sessions with your mates to an annual trip OS, is not changing any time soon.
The launch of Coastalwatch Plus is an exciting time for us. Surfing may not have changed, but the search has gone digital. As surfers and other ocean users look for online resources to help them find more ocean-time in their busy lives, we’ve been working to build the tools you need to keep informed about swells you can chase, and bring you news from the ones you can’t.
We’ve got a team of top contributors out to deliver prime content. Writers like Tim Baker, who’s just about completed his circumnavigation of our great land, and Sean Doherty, who’s currently commentating in Tahiti. Contributors like Tim Bonython and Craig Halstead keep on the pulse so they can bring you first class footage from the beaches when the swells kicks in, and great features from exotic locations when its quiet on the home front. Our forecasting and reporting teams are also out there, monitoring the ocean’s pulse and general health so you can enjoy it at it’s best.
But it’s not just about the waves.
Today the Maldives are a distant playground for surfers with the time and money (or, in my case, good fortune) to visit. But duck beneath the surface and this tiny, idyllic atoll chain provides a microcosm of some of the larger issues facing the coastline around the world’s biggest island - ours.
Just over a decade ago, ocean warming caused by a massive El Nino devastated the Maldivian coral reefs, and by the end of the century the entire island chain is expected to be underwater thanks to global-warming-induced sea-level rise.
As Australians we’re coastal people – surfers, swimmers, boaties, fishermen - the list goes on. It’s a part of our national identity. Our anthem gives a nod to us being girt by sea, and while we’re known as the ‘lucky country’, to live, work and play around the Australian coast is, quite literally, to be one of the luckiest people on the planet. With the launch of Coastalwatch Plus we look forward to expanding your connection to our coastline, the waves that break along it, and the issues that may influence how future generations experience it.
We hope Coastalwatch Plus can grow into a hub not just for information about current conditions, but for the communities built around our coastline to engage with the issues that affect them and their environment.
Back in the airport, my flight’s still a while away. Eleven hours on a cheap couch has taken the gloss off the whole travel-is-in-the-journey thing. But it’s been time well spent - researching my destination, scoping what the ocean has in store as well as speaking to other travellers and posting a note for you guys. As the new site grows, I hope you’ll come to think of Coastalwatch Plus as the Gold-Class Members Lounge to the regular site – a small luxury that’ll smooth your surfing journey; and help you arrive on time, refreshed and informed, wherever your surfing journey is headed.
So take some time to wander around, check out the new features and see what Coastalwatch Plus is all about. We hope you like it.
See you out there.
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