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Departures: How To Keep Waves Secret, With Ben Bourgeois

Because before we had “Mick’s Wave, there was “Benny’s Right”

Five days ago, “Mick’s Wave” sent the surf world into a frenzy. Rarely before have so many surfers scoured Google Earth at once, all in search of a point somewhere along our planet’s 370,000 miles of coastline that just might be the wave in Rip Curl’s latest Search edit. Dropping pins. Sharing screen grabs. Trading theories.

As far as we can tell, Mick isn’t saying anything. When a friend of ours recently tried to bait Mick by texting him, How sick is it that a wave that good exists in Africa? Mick responded with, How sick is it that a wave that good exists in Africa, Indo, Central America, the Caribbean, and Mexico (smiley face emoji)?

One (untrue) theory that’s being passed around is that Mick’s Wave is actually “Benny B’s Right,” which was uncovered in 2008, and to this day remains somewhat under wraps. We rang Ben up since he has an idea of what it’s like being in Mick’s shoes right now. Is it really possible not to tell anyone? What about your very closest friends?

It just so happens that when I got in touch with Ben, he was two miles into a Caribbean jungle, en route to a desolate left that he’s had his eye on for a few years.

You’re a hard man to reach!

[Laughs] Yeah, sorry if my phone cuts out. I’m down in [redacted] and I just did a two-mile hike in the jungle. But I’ve got this little wi-fi thing and it’s actually picking up a decent signal. There’s been a lot of swell and I’ve been exploring these other zones. This one looked amazing on a map, but when we got there, it was a different story. There was too much stuff out the back: weird shoals, an outside reef, and it just knocked the swell down a ton. And then the bottom was kind of messed up, too. So we’re just checking this other spot now.

Have you even had the chance to see Mick’s Wave? We wanted to hear what it’s like concealing that type of secret.

I did see it. And I saw all the chitter chatter on all the different websites, and I was just thinking about how much it’s changed since eight or nine years ago when I first surfed that wave [Ben would go on to grace the cover of Surfing after that trip in 2008]. Back then, you could keep it off social media, throw up some photos in the mag. It was so delayed that the process was different.

But was it hard to keep a secret when people, especially your friends, asked you where it was after that mag came out?

A lot of people would guess. And it definitely wouldn’t be the spot, but I’d kind of laugh it off and be like, ‘Yeah, that’s it’ [Laughs]. I wouldn’t necessarily lie to them, but I’d do my best to change the subject pretty quick. It’s kind of awkward. People still hit me up about it today and I still avoid giving a straight answer. Of course, quite a few people know about it these days, but when they find out where it is, when they figure out how much of a mission it is to get there, and when they find out how rarely it breaks, they never actually go. Mick’s Wave is probably going to be the same thing.

Will you try to find out where it is?

I’m not that interested. I have a feeling it’s really tough to get too and in a pretty gnarly area. Knowing Rip Curl, they did a lot of research, made a lot of connections, and made sure it was safe. But that’s what Rip Curl does. They’ve been doing that forever. In all the old Search movies with Curren and Frankie Oberholzer, they’ve been surfing waves that nobody has ever surfed for decades. But back then, the film would come out a year later, and people would have no clue where the waves were, or what swell they needed, and so most of the spots were left alone. For some reason, these days, all these yahoos sit on the net and chat and get off on trying to be the first to tell the world where every wave is.

It’s funny, people are freaking out that there are still empty waves around the world in 2017. As if this was the last one out there.

There are so many more waves out there. Better ones – Did you see that? [Yells to his buddy.] I just saw a really good left spit. Wow. It’s getting good.

Don’t let me hold you up!

No worries. We’ve just been waiting for the tide. I’ll be out there in a minute. What were we talking about again? I just got so sidetracked.

You were just saying how many undiscovered waves are out there. And it’s pretty ironic that you’re literally looking at one of them right now.

Look at Barra. It blew up and now it’s gone. There are so many waves that are the ‘best wave in the world’ for a short while and then they disappear. Fanning’s wave could be like that. And don’t get me wrong – it looks amazing, but there’s no reason for me to chase that spot when I have a whole list of places I want to go first.

Like the one you’re at right now?

[Laughs] It’s hilarious that you called me today, on the proper day for this wave after we hiked two miles to look at it. I’ve seen this spot from a plane and from Google Earth, but it’s hard to tell anything until you get your eyes on it. There’s only one way to know if a wave is actually any good, and that’s to go and get a vision with your own eyes. But doing that will also throw you on some straight-up missions that will fail a lot of times.

I know you’ve been down that road before…

Oh yeah, for sure. I’ve been on two-week recon missions where I haven’t even surfed. But yeah, this spot is pretty sick looking. Look at the one! [More excited laughter] OK, I think we’re out there.

[Two hours later, Ben sent a grainy video of a reeling left, with this note: “This left is such a sick setup. Like Macaroni’s kinda. The hard thing is getting here.”]

[Above Photo: Bourgeois and the author, proving that secrets do make friends. Photo: Burkard]

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