As a passionate software developer, I often find myself going into a nostalgia trip trying to think what it would be like to rebuild and relaunch Sixty40 in 2022. I used to live on Sixty40 and it played a huge role into growing my passion for the sport. After all, it's approaching it's 20th birthday as the domain sixty40.co.za was registered on 16 February 2003, according to whois.
However, the internet is a much different place today than it was in the 2000s.
We live in a time where photographers almost exclusively share their photos on Instagram, Facebook groups & Reddit is where all Q&A / discussions happen, and if you're a video creator, there's YouTube + Vimeo - and they are all pretty much free thanks to the data they are mining from you.
When I think about Sixty40 in 2022, my intuition wants to say that there's no way we can get users to move their bodyboarding related discussions and photos away from Facebook / Instagram and start using Sixty40 instead.
But at the same time, bodyboarding has that low profile, underground, wants to be unique kinda vibe to it, that makes it the perfect candidate to go independant, away from big corporate platforms like Facebook, Instagram, etc, perhaps what made Sixty40 a successful community website for its time.
Bodyboarding remains niche enough not to go mainstream, but big enough to go it's own direction.
Okay so we're not threatened by existing big tech, lets go ahead and rebuild.
The existing Sixty40 website consists of a few primary features:
- Publications - articles, news, blog posts
- Rider profiles
- Surf spot pages
- Photo gallery
Kelly Footit (the founder of Sixty40) spent a lot of time building Sixty40. It's an absolute masterpiece for its time.
Creating a copy by itself could take many months, in which case it would be silly to recreate everything. Just as it was for Kelly, who built Sixty40 in his freetime while living in the UK, it would be a side hobby project over weekends, with no financial incentive, we should without a doubt be following an ultra minimal approach, to try and get it up and running in the shortest possible time and remixing with some of the things that would work better today.
For the first version of the new Sixty40 I'd prioritise the following in no particular order:
If there's one thing that captures every wave riders attention more than anything else, it would be photos.
Surf photography is a huge industry, both for hobbyists and professionals. We all know Instagram managed to capture a huge chunk of that market but it's not focussed. Having your beautiful surf images thrown into the algorithm and hoping surfers will find it amongst the countless adverts, infleuncers, breakfast photos and activists doesn't seem like an optimial environment for surf images. And to top it off, instagram highly compress your photos and quality goes down the drainer.
Cloud storage like AWS buckets is far cheaper today than it was 15 years ago, which means you can retain image quality without breaking the bank.
With surf photos you want to keep quality as high as possible and that could very well be a major draw for surf photographers. Magicseaweed have a lot of photo contributors, but it's largely standup focussed, but I feel it's missing certain elements that could link up both photographers and indiviudal riders to make it more collaborative, like "likes" and "comments" to encourage discussions, etc.
However I think its a breath of fresh air knowing that photographers are willing to share their content outside of just Instagram or Facebook, perhaps they just need the correct environment.
I'd definitely take inspiration from the WSL profile page and give every user access to setup and create their own profile pages. I'd keep it clean and simple and perhaps prioritise of the use of photos and mix in some of the trival data points from Sixty40's profile page.
Surf spot database
This one is pretty controversial and would need some solid thinking to pull it off well. Many bodyboarders and surfers alike are very sensitive when it comes to pin pointing surf spots. Sixty40 has it fairly figured out, where nothing is pin pointed to an exact location and goes by name only, but to modernise it for 2022, it would certainly need some adaption - as long as it doesn't become a zombieland filled with spammers like what happened to WannaSurf.
As mentioned in my previous post, the Sixty40 magazines were absolutely lovely to read. If all those magazines's articles could be ripped out and formatted for the web they'd get a lot of traffic and keen readers.
There's really brilliant writers in the bodyboarding community and it would be awesome to have articles on the website published regularly, covering a wide range of topics and the cool thing is they are written by people you know and respect. Not just any journalist without skin in the game.
Thankfully there's really good software nowadays that makes collaborating and contributing so much easier. I could be perhaps a bit biased on this, but I'd certainly have the publishing side setup with Ghost, since it's super focussed on publishing, blogging and writing articles.
It also makes it super easy to get contributors to write articles and then let the editor / admin publish it when ready, which is excellent for having guest writers. This is perfect if we have a member who had an epic trip to the Mentawai's and want to write an article about it, etc.
The forum was probably the first part of Sixty40 that slowed down. I believe largely due to discussions suddenly shifting to Facebook Groups and perhaps smaller private Whatsapp, Telegram,etc groups.
And lets be realistic - most forums kinda died in recent years.
So this will be quite tricky to make it useful, but my current idea it to have like a Q&A board instead, meant for quick highly focussed questions / discussions, eg "What's the best tide and wind to surf The Wedge?". Lately there's quite a lot of apps and websites that follow that model and they tend to be quite active compared to traditional forums. Relatively simple to build and take it from there.
You may be asking now, why would you want to revive Sixty40 and not just start a new project?
I've been thinking about this for quite some time and yes, 2 years ago while I had some free time I was about to rebuild something new, but at the time hesitated as I felt I don't have a big enough of an idea and that it's hard to start a community site out of nothing.
That hesitation brought me back to Sixty40 itself and answered some of the questions regarding why it would be better to revive Sixty40 as opposed to a new competitor.
- The branding is there. Logo is modern and ahead of its time and the name sticks.
- Sixty40 already have a giant collection of photos, database with thousands of riders - possible the biggest one in the world - and a collection of surfspots. It's super valuable data and assets. It would be silly not make use of it.
- Recognised and respected by many bodyboarders not only in South Africa, but around the world. Large number of superfans, including myself, who'd be willing to contribute.
If there's one big change that I'd make, it would be to drop the .co.za in the domain to something not as region specific, for a bigger audience.
It'd be cool right?