Issue 12.2: April / May 2009

Web Surfing

story by Catharine Lo
photo by Dana Edmunds

So there you are, at your computer in Moscow or Tehran or Mumbai, but where you really want to be is in the ocean off O‘ahu. What do the waves look like today? you wonder. Is the break crowded or deserted? Is the weather overcast or sunny, windy or calm? Wouldn’t it be great to just stroll down the beach and check out the scene? Thanks to, you can do just that—regardless of wherever in the world you happen to be. The brainchild of Honolulu’s Tom Gaupp, the site posts mini-movies shot on location at surf breaks around the island, offering an all-access instant portal to sun, surf and sand.

Gaupp—who goes by the stage name Tom E. Stokes for his cybershow, Hawai‘i Surf 
Session Reports—has been filming, editing,producing and delivering wave-riding eye candy to surf enthusiasts around the planet for three years. Twice a week, he captures fresh footage from popular O‘ahu surf breaks, sets it to music from local bands and within 24 hours beams it out to the world. Supporting the backyard programming is an audience of 35,000 active subscribers from 111 countries. They tune in to glimpse Hawai‘i’s enviable surf scene—stand-up paddle surfing at Makaha, heaving barrels at Pipeline, bodysurfers at Point Panic—and the island’s palm-fringed seascapes. Hawai‘i Surf Session Reports was one of iTunes’ first fifty podcasts, has had more than 4.5 million down-loads and was named one of the three top sports podcasts by Wired magazine.

Occasional advertising helps fund Gaupp’s work, but it’s mostly a labor of love perpetuated by enthusiastic viewer feedback—“that’s my soul wealth,” he says—and about $60 a month in donations and fees. Relying on video production jobs to pay the bills, Gaupp remains 
confident that quality content and a regular audience will draw advertisers. Donning Tom E. Stokes’ jocular sports announcer persona, Gaupp explains, “It’s not your average surf video because it’s not about professional surfers, but average Joes and Bettys on the break and even occasional kooks. It’s good music, bad jokes … the greatest surf show not on TV.” HH