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Huntington Beach-based Surfline announces $30-million investment, new CEO

Kevin Tran walks under the pier after a day of surfing in Huntington Beach on July 31.
Kevin Tran walks under the pier after a day of surfing in Huntington Beach on July 31. Surfers have long used Surfline.com as a source of information for predicting wave conditions.
(Raul Roa / Staff Photographer)

Surfline\Wavetrak Inc., the company behind the surf forecasting website Surfline, announced Tuesday that it has received an investment of $30 million from investment firm TCG.

Additionally, the Huntington Beach-based company announced that it has appointed Kyle Laughlin as its CEO. Laughlin takes over for Jeff Berg, who will remain in the company as executive chairman.

Surfline, which says it has more than 3 million users, is where surfers turn to access surf conditions. It is powered by a 35-year data set, as well as proprietary swell, wind and weather modeling. It features live high-definition cameras at more than 700 locations worldwide and also publishes editorial content related to surfing.

Kyle Laughlin has been named CEO of Huntington Beach-based Surfline\Wavetrak Inc.
(Courtesy of Surfline)

Surfline was founded in 1985 by Sean Collins as a pay-per-call telephone surf report. The website was launched a decade later. Surfline.com now has some free data but is mostly subscription-based, with plans that start at $7.99 per month.

Laughlin said in a phone interview Tuesday that he loved the Surfline story.

“It truly is one of heritage and grit,” Laughlin said. “This is a team that brought everything from fax, to 976-SURF, to an ad-supported web-based experience to now a leading mobile subscription product. They’ve built a successful company with a world-class product and editorial offering, and it serves a massive audience in a fast-growing category. I’m humbled to join this incredible organization with such an amazing legacy.”

The company has grown into one of the biggest and most trusted in the surfing industry, with its forecasts used for events like the U.S. Open of Surfing, held on the south side of the Huntington Beach Pier each summer. The U.S. Open was canceled this year due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.

Collins died in 2011 after suffering a heart attack. Berg has served as the company’s CEO since 2015.

Laughlin, 42, is a Laguna Niguel resident. He has most recently worked at Amazon, and before that he was senior vice president at the Walt Disney Co., as well as the head of Sport & Games at Yahoo.

He said much of the $30 million will be used to fund Surfline’s technology wing.

“I think what both TCG and we realized was that this is just a massive opportunity,” Laughlin said.

“Surfline has this amazing portfolio to serve not only a local audience but a growing global one as well. We have the largest surf audience in the world ... and surfing is one of the fastest growing sports here in the U.S. We’re going to use this additional funding to really invest in that strong product portfolio and to continue to invest in the capabilities, from a technology perspective, to help continue to connect surfers with their passion. This really has been a 35-year history of focusing on that mission, and I don’t see that changing.”

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