West Askew, a founder of Flo Labs, says many of his mornings start with him checking multiple apps for surf, weather, and wind data; checking with friends to find out their plans; driving half an hour to a selected spot; sitting out in cold water for an hour; catching one wave; and then driving to work.
Askew, speaking at Highway1 Demo Day held in San Francisco on Wednesday, says surfers like him—along with skiers, snowboarders, kayakers and all sorts of others involved in outdoor sports—spend a lot of time checking weather and wave, or snow, or other local conditions. He says they’d like to spend less time figuring out when and where to go and more time engaging in their sports.
So he’s come up with a sort of Waze for outdoor sports, in the form of a US $150 waterproof puck that communicates with a cloud network. The puck includes a GPS, 9-axis inertial measurement unit, barometer, thermometer, and a battery that lasts two to four hours. For surfers, it reports ocean conditions and logs waves caught in real time, so a user’s friends can check in on not only water conditions, but how the surfer is doing, helping them decide whether or not to head to that spot themselves.
Flo Labs raised $275,000 in angel investment to date, Askew says. The company has started rolling out hardware to beta testers and plans to start taking preorders in July 2017 for shipping in the fourth quarter. It plans to then launch a variant for snow sports late in 2017.
Tekla S. Perry is a senior editor at IEEE Spectrum. Based in Palo Alto, Calif., she's been covering the people, companies, and technology that make Silicon Valley a special place for more than 40 years. An IEEE member, she holds a bachelor's degree in journalism from Michigan State University.