Stephen's Scribble

Local surfers were up in arms last week following news of a webcam having been erected on a private property overlooking Seal Point. I took the opportunity to contact the owner of the webcam, Graham Brand of Ocean Eye as well as several surfers and ocean minded people within our community to find out what is going on.

Ocean Eye, a very popular website that has several webcams installed overlooking various beaches and surf spots around the country. It’s a very clever concept that allows online views of the sea conditions at these locations, in real time, for free! Naturally with ever increasing viewership there is plenty of cash to be made on advertising. It seems a good business.

I caught up with the owner via telephone to discuss the latest installation here in Seals. He appeared to be a nice enough person but was clearly very disappointed at the chilly reception he’d received from several Seal Point locals. According to Brand, the person on whose property the webcam has been installed at has been harassed by the locals to take it down. This also appears to be the case at the establishment hosting a similar installation at the Hulett’s break that has also come under fire from a very irate St Francis Bay local. Brand claims that there have been a number of emails from infuriated board riders and his wife even received a threatening telephone call.

I thus decided to approach a number of long standing residents over the matter and received some interesting feedback. Covid has turned our area into a proverbial ‘boom town’. The influx of people has been phenomenal over the last year and it doesn’t seem to be slowing down. For the most part of it, the locals have embraced the extra numbers and welcomed new comers into the village. It is changing so fast with positive spin off’s and some negative ones. A big and bitter pill for surfers, is the crowd factor.

The local board riders here are generally quite mellow and open hearted. Part of why they are here is to experience that soulful solitude of the place and those days of being in the line up with just a few friends were part of that. Nowadays with 30 people in the water of a weekday morning, 20 of which nobody seems to know, is changing all of that. So when a webcam is installed advertising live surf conditions to the entire planet 24/7, I can understand that it is going to be met with vehement resistance.

There are already a host of very effective websites to view regarding sea and weather conditions. It’s actually pretty cool interpreting what effect the wind, swell and tides are going to have on the surf.

So is this webcam really necessary? And if so how does offering an ‘extra service’ help serve the local community?

There is no doubt in my mind that Ocean Eye has experienced negative responses from local surfers before. That there was zero prior consultation on the matter is reason enough to believe that the interests of the local surfing community have been completely overlooked. Bad move! Localism is part of surfing culture, it always has been, always will be. It serves a purpose that isn’t always pretty and last week it reared its head …. BIG TIME!

To many surfers the sneaky way the webcam suddenly appeared feels a bit like a royal “fuck you ou’s”. Senior members of the Seal Point Board Riders association have been in communication on the matter. Solidarity in the resistance to a webcam overlooking the point is unquestionable.

Considering this inevitable reaction from the local surfers, karmic-ally speaking, surely making enemies of a large number of local board riders must be quite a heavy self-imposed tax? Personally, when it comes to small villages, I just don’t see how it could possibly be worth it. Earning an income in hard times can be tough, with some interesting lessons. In this case learning the difference between a hurdle and boundary perhaps? The locals have put a stake in the ground and I don’t see them budging any time soon. A webcam feels a like a slap in the face …. the straw that broke the camels back ….

Brand claims that what Ocean Eye is doing is 100% legal. If there is consent from the host that has the camera installed there his company is well within its rights. “Nobody owns the ocean. The locals have no place to be making demands to have the camera permanently removed.” In saying that, he has begrudgingly agreed to not go live with the feed …. FOR NOW. He is currently consulting lawyers over the matter. According to him, its an inevitability ….. according to many of the board riders ….. It will never happen. What do you think?

Stephen Praetorious

Article by Stephen Praetorious