Nicholas Mohnacky - Surfr App

When did you first learn to surf and where?
Cocoa Beach, the same place as Kelly Slater. I was 5 years old riding tandem on my dad’s friend’s longboard.

When did you get your first board?
When I was 5 I got this 5-foot Maui and sons board at Chucky Cheese.

Who influenced you to start surfing?
None of my family surfed, but we had some family friends who we would always be travelling to see at Cocoa beach and they surfed, so I kind of picked it up from them. I moved to Hawaii in 3rd grade so I did a lot of surfing there, then when I moved to California I used to get the bus down and surf Huntington Beach pier in High School. That was when I started to develop my surfing ability and interest.

What is your favourite surf spot in the world?
Palm beach is probably my favourite break. It’s a bit fickle, but when it’s on and we get a nice cold front coming through, there are some amazing waves. It’s basically like mainland Hawaii, we have coconut trees and gulf streams so the water is really blue. I love it. I’m also a big fan on Indonesia.

What is your go-to board?
I normally ride a 5’9 round tail with performance core and rail channels, or this board that I designed called a Muck monster. I also have a Surfboard Company that I started in 2004 called Enoch surfboards. The Muck Monster is a 5’5 groveler with a double wing round tail. I use a C and C machine to shape, and mostly work with Stu Sharp out of Cocoa Beach now just because I have other lucrative ventures.

How many boards do you have in your garage?
I’ve got about 12.

I went to University in West Palm Beach, which brought me back to southern Florida upon coming back from California. I studied marketing after switching from Marine Biology. After I left University I got a job working for a newspaper and got into digital marketing and advertising, I did some work with Yahoo rolling out some new technologies to the market. I was the liaison because I was the youngest guy in the room and digital marketing was a relatively new concept back then, not many people even had iPhones.

How did your career progress from there?
I worked through the apex of the media run in the real estate boom from 2006, I was working with a lot of developers and car dealers so I had a lot of high volume accounts. Then when the recession hit in 2008-2009 they laid off about 1100 people. I was still at the newspaper and was still one of the top sales reps there, but the whole atmosphere had changed, just seeing a lot of my peers not working there anymore was a bit of a hit. I decided to save up some money and sell my car etc., I bought a van and built a bed in it, quit my job, and travelled around the U.S for 3 months just surfing. At the time I had made a surfboard for wakeboarding, and through social media I connected with a lot of boat manufacturers and travelled the country showcasing this board and just surfing. After that I re-focused my attention towards what I was good at which was marketing and creating campaigns so I did some consulting when I got back.

How did Surfr app come about?
In 2010 2011 I was building apps with a small team, in 2011 I was working with my largest client; Zinga, so we were doing some app video’s and creating content with them. We developed a couple of client app’s and got into 3d printing in 2012, but in 2013 after Hurricane Sandy I surfed a lot of breaks in Florida and had nothing to show for the fact that I had just surfed probably the best swell Florida will ever see. So I had this idea of like a surf journal kind of thing where you can upload photos and give accounts on the swell for others to see. So I brought in an Investor and co-founder and 9 months later here we are!

Do you have a developer in house or do you outsource?
I have a team of guys that I work with. Having been involved with creating app’s before I can navigate that situation. Having done 5 app’s now, I was able to bring the app to the point where all we needed to do was write code. So I brought in 3-4 developers last year.

How has it been received?
It’s getting traction. I always have high expectations. We’re in 55 countries now with a couple of thousand downloads at this point. People seem to be impressed (laughs). We have a strategy in place, but the thing with apps is that they are these living, breathing machines that take a lot of maintenance and developing so it’s interesting. But it is a lot of fun too because of how the app is evolving. It’s like the ‘Yelp’ for surfers.

How are you finding people are using it?
The biggest thing is basically educating people that the app is what it is. It’s intuitive that it looks like instagram and has the function ability of 4-square in that it gives users the ability to tag locations, but it is still new and original. Being able to communicate the actual functions of the app is the hardest part. The adoption has been positive.

When did you guys launch?
We launched on November 27-28 2013.

Is it something that you’re keen to stay involved in?
Definitely. I would love to see it stick around for a long time. I keep imagining showing my kids in 20 years time all these places I’ve been surfing.

Are there any new developments with the app that you want to talk about?
We just launched A Social Goods feature, which I’m excited about. As surfers we travel the world and go to these remote places that you wouldn’t usually go to unless you’re on some mission related visit, so it would be cool to bring these areas to the attention of others just by dropping a pin on the map and saying ‘Hey this area needs clean bottled water’ etc. And eventually as more users use the app and find themselves in these area’s they can swing by and help out, and the non-profit guys like Surfaid etc. can use it as sort of a means of crowd sourcing data in order to identify possible future interaction.

Where can we find you online?


Posted by: Matthew Ryan, on April 11, 2014
Categories: Interviews