The final bricks have been laid for the construction of Swap and surf (S&s), an innovative project founded on the new economy, which is already up-and-running, boasting an extensive international presence.
Through the concept of shared accommodation, which enables members to exchange or accommodate others in their own home, S&s represents a revolution in the way some 35 million surfers can now travel. With members in more than 60 countries, S&s already has an international network in place, capable of fulfilling any travel project a surfer might imagine.
Through establishing good network connections, S&s has been able to provide solutions to all its demands so far. Whether they be for a family trip, or just a surfer seeking information about a particular destination.
Thanks to emerging technology and a powerful international network, S&s proposes a new approach to shared accommodation, a practice already familiar to the surfing community. Originally conceived for a community that maintains a close relationship to the environment, both through the nature of surfing and their eclectic cultural values, the only thing missing from this sustainable travel solution was a proficient tool to draw all the elements together. This final step was achieved the 21 March with the launch of S&s’s fully redesigned website.
TRIED AND TESTED CONCEPT WITH AN ESTABLISHED NETWORK
From the outset, the approach chosen focused on the organic development of the network. Bypassing investor involvement from the very beginning, S&s's founders have managed to strengthen their community and achieve a solid international presence with a strong brand identity, recognised by a large majority of the surfing world’s cultural and economic actors. It was a lengthy task, but it enabled the organisation’s development to be better managed.
Today, S&s is a well-known brand in the surfing arena, mentioned in magazines, newspapers and websites across every continent. An organic development model was therefore the logical choice for a network emphasising very strong values.
The origins of this project, closely tied to its founders, can be better understood through the film “because…” - link to film here.
Philippe and Sylvain Garms, cousins from the South of France, define themselves as “entrepreneurs by nature”. Due to their active involvement in this large "outdoor" community, they are aware of its codes and its needs, thus creating this innovative project came quite naturally to them, without either of them having had any previous project management experience before launching this ambitious enterprise.
S&s FUNCTIONS LIKE A CLUB
Moreover, S&s functions like a club where every member is considered to be equal. For instance, although S&s boasts certain well-known surfing personalities within its ranks, a ‘Kelly Slater’ would have the same rank and receive the same attention as an amateur surfer, no matter where they live or what their surfing ability. While S&s may operate like a club, it is still structured like a business, in the sense that its aim is to offer real client service and great assistance to all its members.
This is why a ‘freemium’ economic model was chosen and why the network strictly rules against allowing direct financial transactions between members (S&s is not an Airbnb for surfers, its concept is much more innovative and relative, as it works in harmony with existing customs in the vast surfing community).
AN INNOVATIVE APPROACH ABOUT TO EXPLODE
For S&s, importance lies in practicality, starting with the need to organise a specific surf trip that includes all the desired particularities (i.e. project for a family vacation, finding a place to stay, contacting locals for surf info, etc.). The logic behind emphasising models in which users are identified by a rank or standing does not make sense to S&s. All our network's actors appear with the same status, regardless of their surfing capacities.
For S&s, all its members are “team riders” and the network insists on considering them as a group encompassing the wealth of diversity. What’s more, this great wealth is showcased on the website in order to be discovered. The project's creators consider one of the interests in travelling via a local surf network, in addition to the enormous advantage of benefiting from essential surfing resources (where to get a board, finding family-friendly waves, best after-surf eats, etc.), is becoming immersed in another surfer’s life. This exchange, this diversity, is an incredible opportunity and an added bonus. As Leonard Nimoy said, “The miracle is this: the more we share, the more we have”. S&s believes in this very same vision.
A RETURN TO THE MOST AUTHENTIC VALUES
This approach represents a real change to modern perspectives, but it is really nothing more than a return to basic universal principles. These are the principles of our first nations, such as the American Indians who believe that true wealth lies in what we share.
While the common connection between its members is surfing, S&s also likes to highlight its member’s diversity, turning the spotlight on their artistic talents or other individual specialities. For example, in our newsletter we have discussed the rail grabber invented by the very well respected Linda Benson, an S&s member since the project’s very beginnings. We have also focused on the South African shaper of Italian origin Fabio Giacomini who has led an iconoclastic life. And we never miss an occasion to relay the work of the talented photographer Cesar Ancelle Hansen from Biarritz, France.
The film “our community” hits on the particular characteristics of this network, “all surfers, all different”, as is indicated on the website's homepage - link to film here.
A SURFER, A LIVING PLACE
This is also the reason why member profiles are featured just as much as the living space, with the two forming a partnership together.
The profile allows you to discover common ground you may have with a surfer you want to contact (description, link to social networks, etc.). Your aspired surfing level is indicated (how many sessions per week/month/year + preferred wave size + preferred board type) and, as a result you can find out if you both share the same surfing habits or preferences.
This additional information is considered equally as important in the eyes of S&s's founders, who therefore envisaged the creation of networks within a network.
- member's list here -
You can therefore identify yourself as an artist, photographer or even a shaper and you can limit your searches to members belonging to a preferred category. Similarly, discussions with Surfrider Foundation Europe, Japan and Argentina, S&s’s partner organisations, have led to a network being established to enable exchanges between members of these foundations. The same idea is planned for competitors and other actors in the surfing community.
NEW WEBSITE UPHOLDIING THE VISION
The objective for all this work and reflection has been S&s’s new website, unveiled 21 March 2016. This site was the final tool formed to put this widespread international network into action.
The link between living space and surfer has been strengthened, the search engine has been redesigned, all the ergonomic features have been reviewed to help with searching, an internal messaging system has been added to facilitate initial contact between members interested in an E-exchange and, on top of all this, the design has remained as simple as possible.
The website also allows its members to announce events happening near them and to access specific information regarding surf trips via a blog dedicated to this subject. Many other functions driven by both practicality and need are also in the works.
The new website makes it even easier to organise, for example, a cold-water surf trip in Alaska or to get in contact with pioneer surfers in India, to find a family like yours in mythical surf spots and exchange accommodation similar to what you can offer (without costing you a cent!), or perhaps to contact a big-wave surfer and combine project expenses, to organise several places to stay in advance, or to just simply ask a local living on the other side of the world if the beaches you plan to visit as a family next summer are good for a surf session with young children.
Today with the digital age breaking down borders, any travel project can be achieved through S&s. The project's founders have strived to turn the website into a tool to help you organise the most authentic surf trips possible, while steering clear of creating yet another community website or virtual cash machine, which so often die off during their formative years amidst the start-up masses.
For the moment, it is still free to join S&s, but only until a certain number of members has been attained. In following, the website will function through an annual inscription. This is the best way to ensure the project remains viable and also capable of offering its community members all the assistance necessary to realise their dream surf trip (apparently, according to the Centre for Surf Research, 85% of surfers already have in mind their perfect surf trip). At the same time, this model also maintains the community vibe and, in short, continues to follow the nature of a club.
Please don't hesitate to contact the S&s team, they are dedicated to maintaining a very direct link with the surfing community, to whom they are committed and for whom they have developed this ambitious project. This link also assists S&s with remaining a continually evolving project, closely connected to those who love to surf and what they need to achieve their dream trip.