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Hang Virtual Ten With The Second Life Surfing Association

by Aveline Blythe
Published April 11, 2011

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Little April showers are drip-dropping themselves all over the best laid beach plans. However, there is an escape. One way to enjoy the beach, regardless of the weather, is to head over to the Archipelago sim, where it’s sunny all year long. The island is beautiful, covered in palm trees and bordered by the ocean on all sides. Hammocks sway as the sun sets over the water. A wave rises up every ten seconds or so, promising surfers the entertainment they’ve come for. This sublime sim is home to the Second Life Surfing Association, a group of hundreds of SLers who hold regular surfing competitions and engage in general beach-side relaxation.

The SLSA was recently profiled by SurferToday.com. The website called the group “the International Surfing Association (ISA) of the electronic world” (The ISA is considered the governing authority of surfing around the globe). In addition to contemplating the digital wipe-out, the Surfer Today article pointed out the many similarities between the missions of these two organizations, and recommended SL surfing as a great way to pass a day when the waters aren’t cooperating. Try it for yourself, and see what you think.

The other day I donned my bikini and went to visit Archipelago. I was immediately greeted by a new SL surfer looking to buy a surfboard from the island’s shop. Las is a surfing enthusiast whose brother owns a surf shop in RL. We started talking about the many challenges of the sea, and he told me about a tiny- but extremely venomous- jellyfish I had never heard of called the Irukandji. Apparently these jellyfish, measuring only about a quarter of an inch, have a sting so bad that victims usually require hospitalization. They can be a real problem for surfers in Australia. The conversation eventually moved to sharks and the difficulties of maneuvering a board in the water until Las was ready to hit the waves. Many surfers, like Las, travel around to the surf locations spread across SL. Some choose not to join an association, and others join several.

One benefit of joining an association is the monthly competitions the groups put on. Playa Sol Manañero, Kapu Kai, Bundoran Reef, Monkey Cove and Tsunami Beach all host “pro” competitions. These competitions can last for 5 or 6 hours, and they usually draw dozens of surfers. The SLSA holds two each month- one open and one pro. Anyone who registers with the Association can join the open competitions. Surfers are ranked by competition judges and the scores are posted to the SLSA website. The top-ranked surfers are invited to compete in the pro competitions. Winners receive recognition from the group, as well as prizes in the form of Linden. According to Communications Officer Kantbe Thursday, the Association is always looking for judges. They wouldn’t mind a few more sponsors, either. More details about events, as well as the official SLSA rulebook, can be found on the group’s website, http://surfslsa.org.

Interview with Kantbe Thursday

AB: Who designed your surfboard?

KT: Like many surfers in SL, I have several boards. I usually use one of two the most, though. When I want a longboard, I use a copy/mod SSi board made by Sebastian Saramago with a texture of my own design (seen as the backdrop of my Profile Picture). For my shortboard, I use an SJA Wood – FISH board designed and shaped by Schrottvogel Wei.

AB: Do you surf in RL?

KT: No. I was raised in Southern California and lived close to the beach, but I moved away as a pre-teen. Something about the law requiring I stay with my parents at the time.

AB: How many SL surfers are there?

KT: Tons! As of right now, there are 796 members in the SL Surfing Association alone. Although there’s a lot of overlap, there’s also the Australian Surfing Association, the Vibrations Surf Alliance, and the Associacao Brasileira de Surf no SL (the Brazilian Surfing Association), just to name the top three. There are also quite a few surfers who don’t compete and aren’t in any of these surfing associations.

AB: About how many people participate in each competition?

KT: It varies, but enough that the SLSA decided to split their competitions over two weekends so it wouldn’t take so many hours. Staff and Judges normally would need to stay for the entire competition and asking people to be available for 4 and 5 hours (sometimes longer) was just too much. The two competitions usually involves around 40 to 45 competitors spread across the two weekends.

The first competition in a set is open to anyone who is an SL Surfing Association group and registers on the SLSA web based forum (http://surfslsa.org/forums). The weekend after the Open competition, we have the Pro comp at the same surfing sim. Surfers eligible to surf in the Open are the top scorers from the previous Open and those who are already ranked as one of the Top 20 surfers in the SLSA.

AB: Is there any surfing terminology that’s unique to SL?

KT: Hmmm…. I think we party pretty much the same in both worlds… :-)

I think we try to mimic the RL atmosphere as much as possible. There’s lots of party attitude about things with the underlying rules and regulations that govern how we do things. I suppose there have to be some things specific to SL, like lag, scripts, attachments and such, but I think the slang used within the SL surfing community comes from RL. As everyone knows, RL surfing and the parties are a couple of the few places in RL where you can fly too. And in both worlds, you need to fly responsibly and be careful how high you fly.

AB: How do the principles of RL surfing translate to the SL world?

KT: We have the basic rules of sportsmanship and conduct that exist in RL. We have a number of RL surfers who sometimes provide a “reality check” for our Constitution and rules that determine how we do things. We do have some rules that are peculiar to SL because of how things work, but like RL, most surfers are here to have fun – enjoy the experience and camaraderie that exists.

AB: Who manages the Surfwatch website?

KT: Surfwatch (http://surfwatch.blogspot.com/) is actually independent of the SLSA and reports more broadly about all sorts of things related to surfing in SL. The current SurfWatch Editor-in-Chief is Lissa Pinion.

The SLSA’s website (http://surfslsa.org) is managed by more than one person. Sally LaSalle created it and has the most knowledge and expertise on how to manage it. The day-to-day maintenance is normally handled by a standing SLSA Director who is assigned the Communications Officer role. As of the date of this writing, I’m currently in that role.

AB: How do you advertise for judges and staff?

KT: We use SLSA group notices, posts to the SLSA forum, and individual contact, generally by the Board of Director appointed Human Resources Officer.

AB: How much trouble do you have with lag? Has this been improving?

KT: This is another one of those weighty questions…. TONS!!!!!! Lag can be a killer. Not only can it impact the responsiveness of a wave and the individual surfer’s ability to control the board and wave interaction in real time, it can impact other interactions between the staff and some of the scripted objects used for running the event.

Quite a bit of time is spent prior to a competition working with the sim owner to try to reduce lag. We also currently require two adjacent sims to host a competition; one for the spectators and one limited to the surfers of whatever is the current heat, judges, and event staff in an effort to minimize lag on the competition sim. We also have modified rules over time to try to reduce lag. Scripted attachments are no longer allowed, for example. We try to educate people on Avatar Rendering Cost and how to reduce it (although I personally draw the line at surfing bald!!!). There are some excellent scripters in the SLSA and they’ve made some tools, like a HUD the judges use (credit to Sally LaSalle for this one) that has nearly no script cost but has made a tremendous improvement in the amount of time spent by individual judges and especially the head judge for recording and consolidating scores during the competition.

AB: What advice would you offer to someone who is completely new to SL surfing?

KT: Find a wave, grab a board, prepare to have some fun, and get out there! There are a few things one should learn about how to send keyboard commands to a board, and if you want to get serious, ways to reduce lag, but the main thing is to have fun. To help people find publically available SL surfing sims, SurfWatch maintains a list of sims, many of which provide loaner surf boards, on its Wave Report website (http://www.swwavereport.blogspot.com). There are also teleporters to all of these locations at the SurfWatch HQ, the SLSA Home sim at Archipelago, and at Tauri Tigerpaw’s shop on the Goombah Recreation Sim (http://slurl.com/secondlife/Southend/48/170/33).

Thanks to Tauri Tigerpaw of Surfwatch, we also have some beginning surfer packs (yellow back packs crammed full of informational notecards and beach oriented freebies) available in a number of locations around SL. We keep one on the SLSA home home sim (Archipelago http://slurl.com/secondlife/Archipelago/203/127/21), the Surfwatch HQ (Vibes Beach http://slurl.com/secondlife/Alliance%20Surf/195/142/26), one by the board rez area on Tsunami Beach (http://slurl.com/secondlife/TSUNAMI%20BEACH/237/128/22), and one at Bundoran Reef next to the Reef Rider team’s campfire (http://slurl.com/secondlife/Bundoran%20Reef/216/88/22). I apologize to anyone I’ve left out.

Kantbe is also a SL videographer. Here are a few of her surfing videos:
http://www.youtube.com/user/kantbethursday#p/u/1/9Q92BtPLdyk
http://www.youtube.com/user/kantbethursday#p/u/11/H8MqsAUbuZI
http://www.youtube.com/user/kantbethursday#p/u/15/ntdZgTOi5Ro

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