Forecasting Woes

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So the latest on the street is that Surfline just acquired Magicseaweed, one of its competitors in the surf forecasting business. Might not sound like much, but having independent companies trying to have the best forecasting models is big business these days, at least compared to the local phone numbers one would call to get a report only 15 years ago.

Surfline acquired Magicseaweed from the Australia-based SurfStitch Group. SurfStitch overshot things by trying to merge surf forecasting with ecommerce and journalism, buying Australia’s STAB magazine and U.S.A based e-commerce site, SWELL. In the end, they sold them all back to their original owners. SurfStitch paid $13.8 million for both Magicseaweed and Stab Magazine combined in 2015. That’s a lot of money!

Why the woe? Well Surfline completely overshot the forecast for the last month-and-a-half’s worth of swell. In some instances only two to three days out, Surfline was calling for days to be in the 12-15ft range, meanwhile Magicseaweed was more modest calling for 5-7ft. The same for other competitor, SwellInfo.

Jeff Berg, CEO of Surfline told Shop-Eat-Surf.com: “We believe we can provide the talented team at Magicseaweed support in places they’ve never quite had it. We are also investing a lot in the next generation of products and services, and the ability to scale some of that across a larger audience is alluring. Ben Freeston, the founder/CEO of Magicseaweed, is a real talent and I think he’s going to add a lot of value across all the brands in several areas. We believe that there are always going to be different types of surfers looking for different types of products at different price points in the market. The portfolio of brands will allow us to better serve more surfers, especially overseas.”

Having been a part of many big business merger/acquisitions in my professional career, what tends to happen is consolidation of resources and merging technologies. So, in all honesty, this could swing either two ways: Surfline’s reports comes more in-line with Magicseaweed’s algorithms or Magicseaweed will be reduced to use the power house reporting agency Surfline’s resources. Usually when the buyer consumes the other, they push their resources on the other for ROI purposes.

Whichever the case, this just gave competitor Swellinfo a good kick in the pants for business. With upwards of five million plus subscribers between all three surf forecasting agencies, it’s now become an intense battle to come out on top. The one that can report correctly on all the thousands of local surf breaks bathometry (seafloor shape and slope) worldwide will come out on top.

Like with any forecasting, such as weather, always use a variety of tools to figure out what might happen. Then again, just go old-school, get to the beach and see for yourself what it’s like.

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