The Legends Series: INTERVIEW -- Sebastian Saramago (originally published 10/6/2008)

Within the pages of SurfWatch is the rich history of Second Life (SL) surfing from the mouths of the surfers that created or developed or promoted or excelled in this virtual sport over the years.  Enjoy these interviews and the perspective from these surf legends as SurfWatch begins "The Legends Series":

By Tauri Tigerpaw. Exclusive to SurfWatch.

Surf Systems Inc.'s Sebastian Saramago talked to SurfWatch recently about Second Life surfing's early days, the birth of the Second Life surfboard and his famous collaboration with leading wave and surfboard script designer Heather Goodliffe.

So, how did it all start?

Sebastian Saramago: Not long after I started in Second Life, I was building my dream home and shopping for textures at a local store. I met another chap who just happened to be named Sebastian as well. We started talking, and he ended up inviting my girl and I to his place to see his new build. We were checking out the area and the first thing I noticed was something in the water... something moving... OMG it was WAVES! A little figure hovered over the sea with her arm outstretched as if to summon the Second Life waters to rise and roll into shore. That was when I met Heather as she was making the first set of waves. She was a friend of the Sebastian I had just met. It was wonderful. I needed them... but
Heather was not selling the waves yet as she was still developing them. I invited her back to my mainland sim to test how the waves would work on my land. I wanted to support what she was doing because I believed in it. That's when I bought one of the first 'wave rocks' sold.

At this time she had a surfboard that was about like a hover board, and you really had to almost sit on the wave to move to shore. We talked about how best to make them surfable within the first week of having the waves up and running. I got some old hover board and started picking it apart and stripping the script down and removing prims. When I had done as much damage as I could, Heather began adjusting and adding to the scripts to make it float, make it smooth. This was the birth of virtually simulated surfing in Second Life. Over the months we developed many improvements and tested countless configurations. Man... looking back that was a lot of fun.

SurfWatch: Who opened the first surf sim?

Sebastian: We moved from our first home to Siberian sim. Half a sim with a nice white sandy beach. I soon build the first surf shop there on that beach. We sold two types of boards. The first was the surfboard Heather had just made that works with wave push. The other was a less costly board that was stand only. We called the advanced and basic. Later of course we added that feature into one board.

SurfWatch: So how did it get from there to where Second Life surfing is now?

Surfing as we know it nearly never happened. There was a time when Heather kinda fell out of Second Life due to her disappointments in some practices of other sellers. That, along with many Second Life issues at the time, kept her constantly fixing the broken scripts. Most of it was word of mouth and I ran ads and listings. Heather had turned over the scripts of the boards to me and I was fumbling along with them for a while.
I basically begged Heather to keep working on them. I knew that if she could get the right balance of board and wave that people would love it. She had wanted to come back and really put her all into it.... so, she did and started working very hard on improvements. That's when the model of the current scripted board was born.

Not long after that I sold my sim there and bought Quan Li. We set up the second surfshop. But still there were only 4 or 5 across Second Life. Thats the place most of my very fond memories of surfing took place. I met so many great people. We really had a feeling of close, personal connections. It was truly great. No politics, nothing but fun, surf and parties. I never cared about the money or biz of it. Heather is the brains in that area. I came to Second Life to have fun, not to make money or run a shop.

SurfWatch: So your vision was more in terms of creating a fun sport in Second Life?

Sebastian: Everything I did was to help Heather make something people would love. Indeed, that was Heather's goal, too. Perhaps that's why we were not bulldogs in marketing and development. We did not try to swarm in and push surfing on Second Life. We enjoyed it. We both had real life jobs and did the Second Lifething when we could.

SurfWatch: Seeing where Second Lifesurfing is now, how does it make you feel in terms of reaching your goals?

Sebastian: The goal was to keep it working. Second Life had so many issues at the time and it kept breaking everything. Many great builders and scripters left. By the way, that first surf shop is the place we met Poid [Mahovlich] and Nora. They are still around today. At that time we agreed that it would be good to have a few designs of Poid's added to our sets. That was the first time we let other people's art on our boards and gave them a cut for it.

Some time after, on Quan Li, Heather met Keala Mimistrobell. Heather looked at some of her grahpics and really liked them. Heather and I talked about it and decided it would be great to let Keala do a set of graphics for 10 boards. Of course, things started to pick up and trafic was near 8 to 10k each day. More and more people thought it would be so cool to stick a graphic on a board and have a line. Bad thing is, with as unstable as things were, it was simply not worth it for us at the time to do the work to set up vendors. People did not feel they should pay, and really almost no amount of money was worth the extra headache to us.

But that started Heather working on a way to make it a bit less time consuming to do vendor sets for others who wanted a line of boards. Over the next many months, she had that system in place. I guess that was really the start of the 'franchise'.

SurfWatch: Is Second Life surfing where you thought it could be? Better, worse?

Sebastian: I believe the passion and dedication people have are amazing and really inspiring. People are people and many things will happen you don't agree with, no matter what business you are in. We take things very personal here... for me it was a hobby to start with, not a business so, when people cross you and betray you, it hurts. Its personal to me, not business. But for the most part, people love the sport. It adds something to their lives, not just the surfing itself, but the great community around it. To tell you the truth, having a few friends around the camp fire at Quan Li and enjoying the surf would be fine with me.

I don't really find a place in the current surfing community, mostly due to staying out of political issues... and not wanting people to feel some people have an unfair advantage for whatever reason... this kinda leave me on the outside of things. Ironic really.

SurfWatch: You still surf?

Sebastian: Of course. When it's not a competition, I like to go out to Weather and teach the noobs. I also like to show the new school kids a thing or two once and a while [laughs]. I just like helping the noobs have fun and see what there is in Second Life to enjoy.

SurfWatch: Can you give us a taste of what major things are in development?

Sebastian: I can't really say what's in development. I can tell you that riders will really enjoy the range of control. And we hope that wave systems under development will give surfers the fresh breath they have been looking for. All I can say is that we have been at this for as long as we have for a reason. We love it. And we will continue to develop cutting edge products for the sole propose of giving our devoted surfers the best that Second Life constraints will allow us to produce.

SurfWatch: Anything else you might want to add that I forgot to ask?

Sebastian: Only that if anyone would like to speak to me about anything, needs help or just someone to talk to, that I am here for my fellow surfers. I support my family of riders and will always continue to do so.

Useful links
SurfWatch: Interview -- Keala Mimistrobell (25 Aug 08)
SurfWatch: Interview -- Heather Goodliffe (30 May 08)
SLURL: Surf Camp
SLURL: Sebastian's Surf Shack (Weather Island)
SLURL: Quan Li

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