Opinions, TravelThe Future of the Secret Spot 

-Words by Mat Arney, images by Mat Arney

The secret spot is dead, long live the secret spot!

And so is achievable surf discovery, now that we’re on the subject. Wherever you find a rideable wave on the fringes of society you can bet your last money that it has been surfed before, either by some wandering Aussie in the 1970s or by a curious local who saw photos of surfing and figured they’d fashion a rudimentary board and give it a go. If you do succeed in surfing virgin territory then you should be commended for having ventured a long way beyond, or consider yourself lucky that you were there on the one day a decade that a wave breaks at that spot.

Surf Simply technical surf coaching resort, Guiones, Nosara, Costa Rica

We have the world at our fingertips these days and whilst technology has developed rapidly, the old wartime adage that “loose lips sink ships” still has relevance in the case of surf spots. Up until a decade ago, back in the days of dial-up and before, surfers pored over hydrographic charts and maps looking for potential surf breaks; they studied synoptic charts and knew how to read weather forecasts – there was no easily accessible satellite imagery or star rating. And, when their hunches, intuition and research paid off, there weren’t many people to tell; their surf community was as wide as word-of-mouth would travel – an extended circle of friends and acquaintances at the beach car park and local bar. And why would you blow a hard-won secret anyway?

Surf Simply technical surf coaching resort, Guiones, Nosara, Costa Rica

Then connectivity became a part of the fabric of modern life, and the secret spot’s card was marked. The internet made each of us a brand, with social media being our number one marketing tool. Just scored perfect overhead waves with nobody else out? Best take a photo of it and post it online to incite jealousy amongst all of your friends and followers who all of a sudden feel less cool than you whilst sat at their desk at work. That person may just have increased the value of their stock, but they’re unlikely to ever get those perfect overhead waves to themselves again. Many of us are guilty of that, to some extent. The sharing of digital imagery amongst a few hundred digital connections, however, doesn’t really pose that much of a threat to the great secrets of surfing in the grand scheme of things – no matter how viral an image goes.

These days, any spot with semi-regular surfable waves will have a comprehensive write up on the internet, a dedicated surf forecast for the area and maybe even a (branded) webcam hanging off the eaves of the local café or accommodation. That, however, is the cynical point of view. What the webcams, forecasts, guides and go-pro selfies have done is legitimize regular spots and provided convenience for many surfers who need to make the most of their small windows of opportunity. They’ve also driven the search to the farther fringes.

It’s a brave new world and what’s done is done: Move on, scour google earth and use all of that technology to find your spot. Just because it’s been ridden before and is no longer truly a secret, it doesn’t mean that you won’t score it at it’s best with nobody else there; you just have to research a bit deeper, go a little further, and take the longer shot.

The same world wide web that allows so many surfers to target their sessions to hit the peak of a swell at the best local spot also provides those with an adventurous inclination all of the necessary tools to ensure that they hit pay-dirt. It’s now possible to gather historical data on storm patterns, swells, winds and tides and to cross reference that with what the waves looked like at a chosen spot under those conditions. You can research your surf break, possibly take a virtual walk-through of your route to the beach, read reviews and book your tickets. If you’re happy to wait until the blob on the weather charts turns dark enough, you can use the wonders of the internet to make sure that the dice is weighted in your favor. Data is king and can save you from having to travel the hard way only to sit and wait days on end for the conditions to come together and your stars to align – if they were ever going to at all.

So, whilst achievable surf discovery is perhaps out of reach these days, the ability to research and strike whilst the iron is hot at a rare and remote surf spot is completely within the realms of possibility. In fact it is so easy that it’s surprising that, when there is a good swell, surfers are so concentrated at the same old well known breaks when many of them could be off scoring dream waves all to themselves.

Surf Simply technical surf coaching resort, Guiones, Nosara, Costa Rica

The goal posts have shifted and the rules of the game have changed, but adventure, exploration and your dream waves are still out there if you go looking. So do your research, and go get some waves.