Gnarly waves, sun-soaked beaches, and…technology? Absolutely, says Mano Ziul. As the Association of Surfing Professionals (ASP) long-standing Chief Technology Officer, Ziul has helped usher in a number of innovative ways to improve the event judging and viewing experience for surfing fans around the world.
“Surfing has always been driving side-by-side with technology,” said Ziul. “We’re often in beautiful but remote locations, so any time there’s something new that can benefit our surfers, judges and fans, we’ve been amongst the first to try to implement it.”
Recent solutions have included judging terminals that had hard-to-read LCD screens used on sun-soaked beaches, computers that required serial ports and a multitude of cables, and heavy pelican cases that needed to be hauled around to each location on the tour. Albeit progressive for the time, information still couldn’t be shared instantaneously, so it was difficult to engage the millions of surfing fans hoping to follow all of the action.
When tablets started to become popular in 2010, Ziul decided to try to use them to simplify the judging process and improve interactivity amongst the ASP fans. After working with the other tablet platforms, Ziul realized that what he needed was a tablet that would be durable, light, and robust. The BlackBerry® PlayBook™ tablet met all of his requirements.
“When you work outdoors 99 per cent of the time, you need a screen that is bright enough to supersede the sunlight,” said Ziul. “One of the crucial points for us is that we find the BlackBerry PlayBook tablet screen is one of the best on the market.”
After adopting the BlackBerry PlayBook tablet, Ziul met with a developer to develop two applications that could be used during ASP World Tour events: the ASP Judging app and the ASP Surf Vote app. Both apps helped Ziul realize his goal of fundamentally changing how data was collected and shared by ASP.
ASP World Tour judges now use the ASP Judging app on their BlackBerry PlayBook tablets to look at key information that is clearly displayed in front of them, including previous wave height and scores, current surfing conditions, and other information to help them make a more accurate decision. Because the information can be accessed so quickly – and is clearly visible on the tablet’s touch screen – judges can easily glance down at their tablet for details.
While helping judges make better decisions is crucial, Ziul also acknowledges that engaging its predominantly-young surfing fans is the ASP’s “golden egg.” At every event, BlackBerry PlayBook tablets are available for fans to use the unique Surf Vote app, which allows them to vote on the performance of their favorite surfers.
The ASP also has a smartphone app that puts the voting in the palm of the fans hands. The viewer can share their voting decisions by using the integrated Facebook® and Twitter® functions, and engage with the millions of other fans who are either at the event or watching the event on television or online.
Zuil jokingly admits that he starts to “hear it” from the fans, via social media, if the information isn’t updated after about 10 or 15 seconds. Certainly a change from the days of the clunky software and equipment they used to have.
Ziul goes on to say that he has been impressed with the degree of engagement and passion that the surfing community has demonstrated. With up to three million fans streaming during any one event and as many as 50,000 people interacting on the cross-platform Surf Vote app at any one time, Ziul knows that the BlackBerry PlayBook tablet will continue to play a huge role in future ASP surfing events.
“It’s worked wonderfully so far, and will only get better,” said Ziul. “Although it’s always nice to be at the actual event on the beach, this solution gives you the full experience right from home.”