Google Earth: Is this the death of your ‘Secret Spot?’

By Ben McLeod |

It seems like nothing is a secret anymore, even in the small world of surfing. Ever since Google Earth has given surfers the ability to zoom on every coast and find any wave on the planet, the feeling of pride in knowing that somewhere we have our own secret spot, is gone.

Over Christmas break, I watched the original “Endless Summer” from the 60s, with no thought in mind. The most famous scene in the movie is when the surfers climb over the deserted dunes in Cape St. Francis, South Africa, only to find perfect clean waves, with no one in the lineup.

Sure, this was back in the ’60s when there were only a handful of surfers, but the thought of having a wave completely to yourself just mesmerizes me. Now, thanks to Google Earth, if a surfer were to climb over treacherous dunes in search of the perfect, secret wave, he or she would be greeted by a dozen other surfers with laptops who had the same idea.

Don’t get me wrong, there are some great advantages to having Google Earth. Surfers recently found a point in Africa which produces a wave that breaks for hundreds of yards, barreling the entire time. This benefits surfers all around the world by helping them surf a mind-blowing wave. Also, Google Earth will be great for the Association of Surfing Professionals Championship Tour because it could them find new innovating waves to hold contests. Google Earth is genius. In fact it is so amazing, it is freaky. I am not taking any glory away from it, but there is another side to the story. I wonder how the few locals at the point break in Africa felt when their secret, perfect wave was “blown up” all over surfing Web sites and magazines. I wonder how they will feel when they paddle out and are dropped in on by kooks from all over the world. Some secret spot now. My home break is not great; in fact, it is terrible. But I love that wave more than anything, and it is my little secret spot. I doubt anyone is going to Google Earth Matanzas Inlet (stay away, seriously), or even your home break, but what if your home break had perfect waves? Would you be willing to share your wave with hundreds of other people who found out about it from a computer screen?

After watching the Cape St. Francis scene in “Endless Summer,” all I could ask myself was: Are those days almost gone? Technology is amazing, but only a surfer knows the feeling of biking, hiking or flying to a secret spot somewhere on a coast. Only a surfer knows the satisfaction from searching for perfect waves with no idea of what he or she will find.

We have seen some great advantages from using Google Earth in the surf world, but because of it, we may also see more crowded lineups in exotic surf destinations – or even worse – your home break.

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