No More GoPro Surf Lessons

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Ride the Tide GoPro cameras

GoPro cameras became a staple in our surfing lessons a few year back. But sadly we've had to drop them from our surf lessons menu card. For good reason too. It's not all doom and gloom, sad to see them go since it was a massive USP and added value factor for our surfing lessons at Ride The Tide Surf School. BUt after weighing the pro's and con's it was an easy decision to make.


So, half way through winter 2018/19 we dropped GoPro’s from our surfing lessons. We had no choice and they had to go. My reasoning for this was simple. Too many were being lost and stolen & then some safety concerns became apparent.


Can you believe it, that people would steal a GoPro?


Well, these days I wouldn’t put anything past anyone. And the worst part is that if someone in the market for stealing a GoPro had asked me for one I could probably have given them one from our GoPro fleet. We truly did have soo many back then, 5 surfers per surf coach in a session and 3 sessions a day… that was a lot of GoPros & content!


Lost cameras, well, it happens. It’s never cool to lose a sessions worth of surf clips. especially when new and early surfers have been giving it their best and scoring some bangers of waves.


In term of cost, well, back then it was acceptable. But when GoPro had a wobble and increased their prices units became too expensive to maintain price became a contributing deal breaker and we had to knock it on the head. Sure it was a massive unique selling point (personal GoPro for every surfer in our surfing lessons) and sure it was fun and the coaching benefits were massive. But they were becoming more of a pest than a pleasure.


On the safety front… It was the week after I’d just taken the executive decision to tap out on GoPro’s in our surf lessons when I saw two of the worst surf accidents I’d ever seen and both involved GoPro’s. Thank the powers that be these accidents were not in our surfing lessons.


The first was a simple cut across the chest. A surfer nose dived a wave on take off and while falling forward crashed into their GoPro breaking the mount and that broken plastic mount opened the surfers chest like a can opener does a can of beans.


Avoidable, but still a ruff experience for anyone. I wouldn’t have flinched at that since we had already been reverse mounting our GoPro’s so they just pop off in an impact and prevent that from happening.


The second was way more sinister even if the initial intentions were good. I saw a surfer with their arm bandaged and asked what had happened. Their reply stunned me but again knowing the GoPro setup inside and out I was initially shocked but no completely surprised. The surfer in explained they palmed away a loose board from crashing into someone. The GoPro sticky mount caught the person in the web of their fingers… 


(Now I know how much it can hurt to catch a toe on those mounts when you’re surfing. GoPro mounts are such a pain in the butt when not being used to capture content. And as  longboarder they are always in the way.)


… back to the storey. The mount catches the surfer in the web of the fingers and opens them up to their elbow. 10,000 stitches later the surfer is repaired and fine but has a scar and a wound you’d expect to see in a motorcycle accident.


That was enough for me and confirmed that GoPro’s had to GO!


I just couldn’t risk either of those types of accidents. And even being as mindful and preventative as possible I know that you just can’t roll those dice. 


Looking back now, however, I can see more limitations from the GoPro in surfing lessons. Yeah, a massive USP and it served us well. But the agro from them… the agro our surfers had with them. Simply, surfers were too distracted by them. From missing waves to endangering themselves and other surfers because they were playing with their camera rather than focusing on the surf. So many of the best moments missed because people are too busy trying to capture the best moment???


Go and figure that one out?


I am actually kinda sad to see them go sometimes. I used to like skimming clips and using the clips as a coaching aid. You never get to see yourself surf and all too often the realityof performance and memory don't match up. 


The problem with the GoPro for coaching was always the perspective and the single angle only view. Not actually the best angle to observe surfing from and often the details that make a difference in a surfer were obscured from view or so fleeting and warped that the video aid was of no help at all.


Sometimes when I see some of the other surf schools using them I feel like if only they knew… and I kick myself sometimes thinking that’s a sale missed because we don’t offer GoPro anymore. And then I remember the cost of maintaining those batteries with all that sun exposure, the warranty returns, shipping dates, customs duties, up to date replenishment, evenings downloading, uploading and sharing content, hours reviewing etc…


And all of that with a fleet of 30 or more GoPro cameras. And I look over again at a surf coach hunting the shallows for a lost GoPro that just flew off (USD$200 + per unit). I see the look on their face trying to think of an excuse as to why the one reason the surfers came surfing with them (the promised FREE surf clips) is disappearing. I see the camera swaps in sessions that make 4 other surfers miss the wave of their life because some other surfer is desperate for a close-up video of their wet foot on a surfboard with the noise of the breaking surf and wave rumbling screen bouncing (I don’t see any other surf school using GoPro newer than GoPro 3 or 4 and I am certain that its at least GoPro 5 before stabilisation was effective). The little confused faces conveying the pure disappointment of no surf clips. Just like a donut with no jam in it.


I see all that and I chuckle to myself and realise, actually, I don’t miss them damn GoPro’s one bit. For the time they were great sure they were great. But these days there are so many better ways to capture content. More expensive for sure but such greater value shots and angles that GoPro… for surf lessons at least GoPro is truly DEAD.


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