Roni Eshel lie awake in bed at night, waves crashing outside her hotel window. She’d spent the day surfing a world-class break in Costa Rica with friends and was exhausted. But something was stewing in her head and she couldn’t sleep. “I’d noticed that all of the surfers in Costa Rica had these walkie talkies they used to communicate, tell each other what the waves were like. In this small, local community of surfers, they’d solved a problem surfers all over the world have: sharing their personal experiences.”
It was certainly a problem Eshel knew personally: as a professional surfer and Israeli surf champion she’d spent years travelling all over the world to participate in surfing competitions. These ideas and memories of firsthand experiences looped in Roni’s head and the idea for goFlow was born.
goFlow is a beautifully-designed app that connects surfers globally and lets them share knowledge by posting photos and commentary and message each other about how the waves are breaking at their local beaches. According to the Economist, there are more than 35 million surfers around the world, and that number is climbing as the sport increases in popularity. The alternatives for them currently are each surfer individually driving to a break to observe the waves firsthand, or relying on grainy, sometimes unreliable web cameras for a peek at the waves. Eshel notes that additionally, the sharing of wave-condition information, much like the sharing of other information, is already happening in social channels like Twitter and Instagram — which is where she’d personally often search for recent updates on waves before heading to the beach — but the information isn’t always easy to find.
The surf community needs goFlow, Eshel says: “Nothing like it exists today. There’s no platform for surfers to connect through mobile devices.”
The other thing Eshel says about the need for goFlow has to do with camaraderie and the natural, social behaviors of surfers. “No matter where you are in the world, you’re part of the same community. We’re talking about people who are so passionate about this sport that they wake up, everyday, at 4 or 5 in the morning to get into cold water. They share that passion,” Eshel says. “They’re also very supportive of one another. Surfers think alike and want the same thing: to know what the waves are doing. They’re literally always wondering that. goFlow helps give them information and also lets them support each other by sharing it.”
goFlow + Layer
As Eshel and her team began to scope goFlow, they recognized that at its core it’s a communications app, so they saw the in-app messaging function as critical to the product experience. This was also echoed by their earliest testers. But the earliest version didn’t include the ability send messages.
“We started out basic and listened to our community. People could share photos and comment, but the number one most requested feature was in-app messaging,” said Eshel. “We understood that it’s through this one feature that our users can really connect to each other.”
After exploring the possibility of building it in-house, they sought a service that would free them from the technical complexities of building their own communications stack and found it in Layer. They were able to quickly integrate Layer and immediately saw their product experience transformed.
“Layer allowed us to get quickly to an MVP,” said Eshel. “We have a big vision for goFlow and a long list of features we want to build. Layer handles the complex job of reliably managing our seamless, in-app messaging, and frees us to work through our roadmap and focus on designing and building an amazing product experience.”
Download goFlow here.