The Man Who Saved Pro Surfing

Manoziul, plugging away behind the scenes as always. 

Being the super geek that I've become. I've turned a keen eye toward the man, who I feel, ushered in web casting for sporting events. His name is Manoziul, he's from Brazil, and he works for the ASP. I asked him a couple questions:

What was the first live web casted sporting event?
I don't know exactly about the "first" sporting event, but I can assure you that surfing was definitely one of the first events to do live webcasting. If we go back in time, one of the first webcasts was done in 1996, the year of the Olympic Games in Atlanta. It was also the first year for surfing's webcast.

At Huntington Beach that year we got all the gear that was used for the Olympics and installed it at the beach. We did a superb, never-before-seen 128kbps video stream in Real Media.
However, I consider our first live webcast the couple of ones we started back in '94 when we had only live scores as a text stream and a web camera updating pictures every three to four minutes. Then, when we showed the updates every 2 minutes, there was a huge impact. Before people would have to wait a month for the magazines just to see the results. After the live scores and those 2-minute image updates, we saw we were having an incredible impact.

Can you tell me the who/what/where/when of the first event you web cast? As well as, the logistics and hurdles you had to overcome?
The poor Telco guys. In order to make our first webcast, in Portugal, the one Chris Gallagher won, we had to make them run about 6km(3milles) of telephone cable to install the latest in technology: ISDN, 64kbps line. At that time we used to use, at most, 14kbps in the best locations. But in fact, Portugal was one of our biggest supporters in terms of technology. They provided the ASP with servers, connectivity, technology and promotion that helped us incredibly.

At that time, just to connect over the phone line, was a nightmare. We had to go through painful incompatible updates and computer rental setups. Notebooks? We only knew of them by magazine articles, we knew that they were going to be reality one day.

On my backpack, heavy as a brick, I used to carry a 5MB hard drive. The drive used to make so much noise on startup that I had to tell the head-judge I was going to turn it on.

How did your relationship with ASP start? Have you always envisioned live web casting, or was it something that just sort of happened?
I started with ASP back in '86, when the ASP world Tour returned to Brazil with the Hang Loose Pro Contest in Florianopolois. At that time I had developed the scoring system that was just starting to be used in surfing competitions.

I did then Brazil events in '87 and '88. '89 I travelled the world tour showing the system to the various event organizers. At, first, obviously, they were very protective and did not believe much in a computerized scoring system. Then, event after event, I was showing that it did work. From '90 and on I then went full time providing ASP with the scoring system for all events.

As for the Internet, that was just a natural growth. The world was going that direction, like I mentioned before, I happened to receive major support from Portugal Telecommunication Company. As you know, Brazil and Portugal are very close and this helped a lot. I would never be able to do what I did if the Portuguese crew did not help me.

Webcast Breakdown:

Really early it was clear that the Internet was the way to go—even if we were a "bunch of techies" and totally disregarded by event organizers for years and years. It was clear to me, and a whole lot of people, that the web was eventually going to save surfing. I used to say that a lot. Technology got better, surfing got better, and it all translated into the growth of the sport on the web.

I'm a huge tennis fan and over the last few years they've implemented live web casts on their site. Do you look at something like that and feel like you were partly responsible?
I would like to think that I had something to do with this. It would really make me proud to think that somehow the work we did here helped other sports with some ideas.

Tennis is well developed, and I am sure that they can only grow and grow on the web. I wish we had a stable environment to stream our events. That and that we didn't have to do it from such remote locations...well, I guess it might not be so fun if there wasn't a little adventure in there.

Can you tell me some funny stories you have about pulling off these live web casts in remote locations? I know it was always comedy when you guys were trying to figure out the GLOBE Pro Fiji event on Tavarua.
Ohh, yes! Pulling off a webcast from these locations is never easy. In Fiji, a funny case happened when I got the Telcom tech guy in a major trick. He was claiming that he was working hard to get the cable fixed on top of a pole, blah, blah, blah, big story. Well, experience has taught me to smell these 'stories' from a distance. So, I managed to keep this guy on the phone and then walked into the office and caught him sitting at his desk. What a sham.

Or there was the time we took one engineer to the tower on a super rough day. Being Fijian, you would think that he would be used to the sea and boats. Little did we know, but he went into total panic in the middle of the channel out to Cloudbreak. He went berserk! We had to actually grab him. Well, on the way back a pretty big wave almost—I mean ALMOST—tipped the boat over. I even put my hands on the side and got ready to jump. He was pale and never more put a foot on the tower.

If you don't mind me asking, roughly how much does it cost to pull off these live web casts?
The costs vary from event to event: mostly based on equipment and level of production. The usual webcast doesn't cost less than $180,000. It can grow to $300,000 very easy. I think about it, and it's very similar to a TV broadcast event that would spend about $500,000 to do the production. We're still affordable when it comes to price.

What do you think is the next big thing with the Internet, surfing or whatever?
Well, you picked the two that match really well together. It seems like one was made for each other. Surfing is pretty hard for TV, but, perfect for the web. Long events, long days, global audience, you name it. You would mark 'yes' on 9 out of 10 remarks about the value of putting webcasts and surfing together. It's a no-brainer.

Our biggest challenge is to manage to deliver a consistent stream from the locations we go. For example, would you ever expect to have Super Bowl broadcast fail? No! You would expect that organizers would have enough backup systems to provide non-stop, high-quality entertainment. That is what we need and are after, non-stop, high-quality surfing entertainment.

The locations we deliver this entertainment are tough, remote and difficult (and expensive). Surfing's biggest challenge is to create a financially viable formula capable of supporting such expensive solutions anywhere on the globe.

In the mean time, our next frontier is the mobile phone. If you think that surfing was made for web. Wait for the mobile. It is even more "surfing." It is all about "who is in the water N-O-W!"