Surf’s Up for Pinger

Since I first wrote about Pinger, I have to confess that I haven’t found any pressing need for voice IM. But maybe this technology is going to find its way into our lives is through time-sensitive group communications.

This year the fourth annual Mavericks Surf Contest in Half Moon Bay, CA is using Pinger for contest communications, Pinger announced last week.

Frigid water, monster waves, notorious rip tides, jagged rocks, and Great White sharks all combine to make Mavericks one of the surfing world’s most demanding competitions, drawing surfers and spectators from around the world.

Unlike the Stupor — pardon me — Super Bowl last Sunday, Mavericks isn’t scheduled years or even months in advance. Instead, the contest can be any day between New Year’s Day and March 31 that waves achieve a contest-worthy 30 to 40 feet. When that happens, a chosen 24 of the world’s finest surfers are given just 24 hours to arrive in Half Moon Bay ready to challenge the waves.

This year when that green light comes, Pinger will be instantly sending the message directly to surfers and fans that sign up. They will also receive ongoing voice updates about weather and surf from’s Mark Sponsler.

I asked Pinger founder and CEO Joe Sipher why this couldn’t be done with conventional telephone mass broadcast technology — you know, those annoying prerecorded calls we all get from politicians these days.

“Those calls are not personal,” explains Sipher. “If someone picks up, it just plays.” The message could be playing to a three year-old or a voicemail system.

Pinger is “intentional messaging,” he says. People who have opted-in to the communications have visibility that a message has arrived without wading through prompts or messages they don’t want. And, recipients have the choice to listen now or later.

For these reasons Pinger is popular with sports teams that use it for critical communications like game cancellations. “As you start using Pinger,” adds Sipher, “there are a lot of reasons and ways to use it.”