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Saturday, October 25, 2014         

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Moiliili man brings high tech to isle surfing culture

By Michael Tsai

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If great surf photography, good music and bad jokes are your thing, Tom Gaupp has an app for you.

If it's up-to-the-minute reporting on wave heights, wind conditions and tides you want, chill for a couple of months and Gaupp will have you covered for that, too.

Gaupp, 38, of Moiliili, is among those at the forefront of a small but expanding niche of smartphone app entrepreneurs bringing high-tech convenience to surfing communities in Hawaii and around the world.

And while the market isn't necessarily easy to penetrate—"surfers don't usually spend their money on more than boards and wax," Gaupp said—the availability of fast, accurate information on surf conditions via mobile devices like the iPhone and iPad has proven a real-time sensation with a population quick to act on a favorable tip.

Designed by Wizard Media, Gaupp's Hawaii Surf Session Report application for iPhone, iPad and iTouch provides customers with instant access to Gaupp's popular Internet surf site (surfsessionreport.com), as well as periodic newsletters and frequently updated screen savers. Gaupp said roughly a quarter of the 30,000 people who subscribe to his website have purchased his mobile device application, which sells for $4.99.

Gaupp plans to unveil a new surf-forecast app this August.

"I'll keep it simple," Gaupp said. "I cater to the everyday surfer, which can be anyone from (former city Prosecutor) Peter Carlisle to a guy who works at McDonald's. I want to provide simple numbers and allow people to navigate easily to find the correct information."

Gaupp, a former cameraman for KHON-TV who created the first surf video podcast for iTunes five years ago, said he sees limitless opportunity in applications for mobile devices like the iPhone, provided the service is useful and the user interface simple and inviting.

Several well-established surf-related apps have been on the market. But, as a recent New York Times article noted, few if any are for BlackBerry and Android users.

Surf Watch has proven a valuable resource for savvy surfers who can identify the specific buoys associated with their favorite surf spot. The app provides all of the basic information for individual breaks (wave height, wind speed, etc.) as well as alerts for ideal conditions at user-designated spots.

Recreational surfer Gary Ching, 39, of Makiki, uses the free application Oakley Surf Report to identify the best surfing locations for him and his teenage daughter Sierra.

"It seems fairly accurate," Ching said. "Even (TV) news reports are not always on the money, but this gives you a general idea of what conditions are like at any given time. You can find all of this information online if you know where to look, but this puts it right at your fingertips."

Some local surfers note that mainland-produced surf apps typically include only well-known surf spots in Hawaii, and that wave measurements are reported according to the height of the face (a mainland standard) versus the local style of measuring the back of the wave.

Gaupp's upcoming app will report wave heights according to the so-called Hawaiian scale, providing information more in keeping with local understanding. But useful as that might be, Gaupp might have a hard time competing with Surf Report.

"Surf Report is free," said Christopher Yasuma, a manager with the Hans Hedemann Surf School. "Free is always better."






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