A few years ago, I was alerted to a new-ish YouTube channel called The Blind Surfer. It was an interesting premise — surfing is hard enough to learn when you can see — so I gave the channel’s owner a ring to see what it was all about. And what I found was that surfing, although it’s what the channel hinges on, isn’t the most interesting part of Pete Gustin. And as it turns out, I wasn’t alone in finding The Blind Surfer interesting. The channel just surpassed one million subscribers, officially making it the most popular YouTube page in the surfing sphere, which, until now, was a position held by Jamie O’Brien. Gustin’s rise to a million subs happened incredibly quickly. So quickly, in fact, that the people from YouTube contacted him to see what, exactly, he was doing.
“They don’t really know what makes the algorithm go,” Gustin told me over the phone. “They built it, but they need to gather real-world data to figure out exactly what’s going on. They called me up and they were like, ‘what are you doing?'”