Has Google Earth Ruined Surfing?

by Owen James Burke


Could Google Earth take the wonder out of surfing? Maybe it already has.

In 2004, Google acquired the technology for Google Earth from Microsoft. Now, almost every surf break has been photographed by satellite, save a few far flung spots like Antarctica, sections of British Columbia, southern Chile, the Mentawai islands, Western Africa and the Atlantic Maritimes.

The saving grace of it, as surfers know, is that not every great wave is always breaking. In fact, most of the time most waves are not breaking, so a spot that might produce world-class surf 10 days out of the year has a slim chance of having its magic exposed by a handful of satellite images captured any given day.

Here’s a graph by JT at Medium displaying number of satellite images of famous surf breaks (GE images) next to the number of times these places have been photographed with breaking waves:


The conclusion: odds are low that even the best surf spots in the world are captured at the right time. Case in point: Maverick’s, California’s ultimate (nearshore) big wave spot at the edge of Half Moon Bay. It’s had over 30 satellite images taken of it over a 33 year span, and not one of those images showed a rideable wave, writes JT.

So can you find every rideable wave that’s ever broken from your cubicle at work? Soon, maybe. Skybox is a new satellite imaging company making a smaller, less expensive satellite which can take high quality images. They’ve already launched a couple, but I think we’ve got a little more time left to enjoy the wonder.

Read more at Medium — OB

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