Word at the end of the road in Tahiti is that the Billabong Pro has called another lay day Sunday, but there could be a slight bump in swell through the afternoon, which would set up enough surf for Round 3 Monday.
"That's what we're looking at right now," said contest director Luke Egan. So, with time to kill, ESPN Surfing spoke with webcast director Jeff Doner to see what exactly it takes to broadcast a surf event out to the world when you're out in the middle of the nowhere.
ESPN.com: What are the challenges you guys are dealing with?
Doner: Logistically this is a complete nightmare because you have to use everything with links. From the boat, back to the tower, back to the booth. Then we have to run cable from the tower to the booth, so you have a lot of variables. If one thing goes down the entire production is compromised, so in that sense, it's really, really hard. Plus, if you need a part, it's not like you can just call somebody up and get it. So if anything breaks we're at the mercy of what's available on the island, which isn't necessarily what we may need. Don't get me wrong, the people of Tahiti are great people, but the tech supplies can be limited. It's a beautiful place, but you can't always run into Papeete and get what you need to fix a problem.
What about staffing, how many people are working on the webcast?
This one's pretty small, actually, just because the price to get everybody here and put them up is so high. We probably have about 20 or 25 people, whereas on the Gold Coast or Hawaii we'll have 50 or 60.
How many cameras are you guys working at one time?
There's three long lenses, one on the point, one in the tower and one on the boat. And now we have a water filmer. And then we have the guy that films all the post-heat interviews. But like I said, because of what we have available, the production is somewhat limited. And then we have four techs in the room that work on the gear, replay guy, graphics guy, myself directing, and others, so you'll have 10 guys at least in the production studio making it all happen.
What do you do on lay days like this?
It's funny, because we're up at 5:30 in the morning, ready to go. We'll do a little five-minute morning show just to let everybody know it's not on. We can't wait until the call is made, we have to be up and firing, and then if they call it off we can shut everything down. It takes 45 minutes at least to get everything up and running, shuttle people around to where they need to be, and stuff like that. Then when Luke [Egan] makes the call that it's not on, we can shut things down.
What would you say the biggest challenge of the whole thing is?
Same as any surf contest, it's Mother Nature. If it's 10 feet it makes it really easy, it makes the whole show. I don't care if you have great equipment, blimps, whatever, if you have no waves you have no show and there's nothing you can do about it. You could do it with two cameras if the waves are pumping and you're capturing all that people will be like, "Oh my God, that was insane." It doesn't matter if you have $2 million in equipment or 50 bucks, the waves make the show. People have an expectation of what they want to see, graphics, replays, but again, no waves, no show.
What about cost, how much does it cost to produce a webcast?
You can spend as much as you want, but probably minimum is about $250,000 to $300,000 and it can go up from there really quickly. There's millions of dollars in equipment here that we are able to rent from various sources around the world. There's major production houses that you can rent everything from and it's all containered in. In the old days we used to bring it in by hand, but that's not always the safest way to transport it. So we ship it over, the crew gets here about a week early to build it all out and set it up, then they stay a few days after to break it down and ship it back out.