Going Pro

by Ben Perreira


This photo of me was taken in Costa Rica almost ten years ago to the day. I got lucky that there was a photographer on the beach who would then sell images on a CD. (GoPro cameras or not, I never would have gone pro.)

Fast forward to the recent long weekend in which I drove a couple hours north of Los Angeles to find some surf. Among the perhaps 100 surfers who joined me at my secret spot, I witnessed at least dozen GoPro cameras mounted on heads, chests, arms and boards. One fellow even had a camera set up on the beach and a sensor on his body that guided the camera with him as he rode waves.

Like this photo sitting deep in my archives, GoPro cameras have been around for ten years. But why have we seen an explosion of their use in the past 1-2 years?

A key to the proliferation of GoPros is the removal of barriers: low quality video, a place to share, and examples of their capabilities. Of course, these all converge at various points.

  • In the early days, GoPros did not produce HD video. Actual pros didn’t want to use them because they would be distributing low quality content. And they didn’t have great places to share it.
  • For amateurs the only viable places to share were (1) your computer, (2) YouTube, and (3) Facebook. As Louis CK points out no one watches your video on Facebook.
  • Pros who distributed content to their own websites relied on longer format videos. Even social media pros and GoPro advocates like Kelly Slater didn’t maintain their own social channels until a few years ago. (Having worked for his agent and set up his Twitter account in early 2009, I experienced this first hand.) Today, Slater’s Instagram feed is top notch because he lets fans into his head and shows them how he experiences the world.
  • Lack of quality video and quality outlets meant creating with a GoPro was not a priority, meaning a lack of inspiring use cases for GoPro to share. Use cases from pros provide amateurs a frame of reference for their own videos.

Today, use cases are everywhere. From the producers of “The Deadliest Catch” putting the cameras in crab pots to tinkerers putting them on drones to fly above Pipeline, creativity is flourishing. Athletes who are (very) amateur can find inspiration for how to use their GoPros all over YouTube/ Vimeo and via Instagram videos. The act of riding a wave/ mountain/ ramp/ trail now extends into the preparation for getting certain angles, the feedback that comes from that footage to oneself, and the feedback one gets from his/ her friends and followers. 

Professional action sports athletes keep the paychecks coming by giving fans new ways to be amazed. Athletes are always looking for inspiration. We want to push the envelope and ourselves. By creating a better tool for a changing social media ecosystem, GoPro helps us do that.

Maybe GoPro’s next step is getting into content distribution (another revenue channel that captures those who may never own GoPros) like Beats by Dre (Beats Music) and Red Bull (Red Bull Media House). Whatever they decide to do next, I’m staying tuned.