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Local Surf Report Site Changes Hands

By Johanna F. Still, posted Feb 27, 2023
After 20 years, WBLiveSurf.com is under new ownership. 

Started in April 2003, the site has been a vital go-to for surfers looking to get a sense of the water before paddling out on Wrightsville Beach. Daily updates start out with a sunrise report, complete with a five-wave rating system with an assessment of conditions. 

Founded by Tony Butler, former owner of Sweetwater Surf Shop, the daily updates were reported from the quick walk to shore.  

“The reason our site is so successful is that we actually check the waves with our feet in the sand,” the site's description states. “We update the site in person 4 or more times daily, 7 days a week, and 365 days a year with daily photos to prove it. Hard work, consistency, and dedication to a surfing lifestyle and community make this site successful, unique, and fresh.” 

In a community letter shared last week, Butler and his wife Jenn announced that another local surf enthusiast would be taking over. 

Rick Civelli, the owner of WB Surf Camp, SurfBerry, and Cape Fear Paddleboarding, has taken over the reins, the Butlers shared.

"When I knew it was time to sell the business I wanted the site to go to someone that was as meticulous and dedicated to their business as I was," Tony Butler told the Business Journal Monday. "I knew Wblivesurf.com would have a good home with Rick and he has the resources to make the site even better."

In the community letter, Tony Butler said Civelli's passion and commitment to the local surf community are unrivaled. 

“His work ethic and attention to detail have helped him build one of the best surf camps in the country,” Tony Butler wrote in the letter. “We know he will give 100% and feel confident that the community can expect the same surf, community, and advertising impact to continue under Rick’s leadership.”

Civelli told the Business Journal he has known the Butlers for more than 30 years and met Jenn Butler the first week of his freshman year at the University of North Carolina Wilmington. "When Tony approached me about buying WBLiveSurf.com it was a without hesitation YES!" he said Monday. "Tony and Jenn have done so much for our surfing community over the past 20 years and WBLiveSurf.com is the glue that binds."

Civelli said he had been an advertiser with the site since its inception and knows that the return on investment is "unsurpassed."  "I have personally checked the site every day 3-4 x a day for the past 20 years and love looking at the pics and live stream!" he said. 

Over his 20-year tenure, Tony Butler highlighted the production of 7,300 sunrise and 29,200 total surf reports. The business also collaborated on dozens of surf video premiers with high-profile talent, launched a scholarship and well-attended surf contest, renegotiated local surf zones and more.

“Letting go of the WBLive was a very difficult decision for us because we are letting go of what we started and nourished, and our deep connection with all that is WBLive,” Tony Butler wrote in his letter. “So, we handpicked our successor, and we are confident that we’re passing the torch to the perfect person and local business owner to continue the legacy of WBLiveSurf.com.”

Butler said he and his wife will still be in town and will continue offering support behind the scenes. “We hope to see more of you with our extra free time in the water,” he wrote in the letter. 

Moving forward, Civelli said he plans to double site traffic over the next year by investing in the website to add more value for users and advertisers. "Users can expect more engaging content, more resources, a better mobile experience, an informative newsletter and so much more," he said.

The website transcends monetizing internet traffic, Civelli said, and is a legacy brand he is honored to represent. "I have surfed all over this amazing world, and I can say without hesitation that Wrightsville Beach is the most special place to paddle out because of its amazing surfing community!" Civelli said. 

Butler told the Business Journal, "Jenn and I couldn't be happier that Rick is taking the torch and running with it. We know it's in very capable hands and we can't wait to see what the future holds for Wblivesurf.com."
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