How To Keep A Secret

Mikala Jones on maintaining the obscurity of your secret spot

Mikala Jones, veiled by obscurity, and a perfectly tapering tube. Photo: Hammonds

Mikala Jones, veiled by obscurity, and a perfectly tapering tube. Photo: Hammonds

Mikala Jones has made a career out of surfing perfect barrels in undisclosed locations. For the past 20 years, he’s been on magazine covers and in videos shot all over the world, yet Jones has managed to protect the anonymity of his favorite waves. Today, in an era where information is easier than ever to come by through online forums and social media, Jones maintains his smokescreen. But he hasn't become one of surfing's best secret-keepers by accident. Jones works as hard at balancing his career as a pro surfer with his desire to keep breaks obscure. Below, Jones explains a few of his strategies.

Master the art of subterfuge: “When going to an obscure wave, you have to start smoke-bombing people from the very beginning. People talk, so you should always expect that anything you share with other surfers will get out there. How do you think I find new waves? I'm following up on rumors, too. If you know where to look, you can find information about almost anywhere. Just make sure you aren't adding to that information if you want to keep spots secret.

Respect other surfers’ secrets: “If you happen to find a secret spot, don't paddle out with five or six guys. If someone else is already surfing an obscure wave, paddle out alone, or with one friend at the most. And don't shoot photos without permission from the locals, or whoever has been surfing there the longest.”

Post at your own risk: “Social media is a great way to find information, which means it's also an easy way to blow your cover. There are sniffers out there — you have no idea. Guys are trolling Facebook pages, Instagram, YouTube comment threads, chatroom forums, everything you can think of. If you do post an image, obviously don't name locations, not even the general region or country. Don't post shots that include landmarks and don't mention anything about tides or specific swells in the caption. I think it’s best to wait until a different season entirely before posting shots from a trip to a sensitive location.”

Swallow your pride: “These days everybody wants to claim--to show how they scored. But when you claim, you may inadvertently be giving the whole world access to your secrets. Be super careful about what information you share, or just keep your scores to yourself. When in doubt, it’s always better to just stay quiet.”

Be wary of online forums: “Forecasting sites are usually blowing secrets left and right. Even worse is Wannasurf, which is a full-on free-for-all where everyone dumps sensitive information. Don't get me wrong--I use the heck out of these sites when I'm looking for waves. If people want to draw a map to a good wave, then I'm gonna take advantage of it. But you won't catch me posting anything on there anytime soon. There's a difference between dancing with the devil and crawling into bed with him.”

What to Eat on a Surf Trip: With Rusty Long
Five Waves and Regions to Chase During El Niño: With Timmy Reyes
How to Prep for a Cold-Water Surf Trip: With Cyrus Sutton
Balaram Stack: Now Boarding: Catching up with a man on the move
The Perks of Traveling Alone, With Kepa Acero: Acero shows it can pay off to fly solo
Taylor Knox's Top 5 Destinations: Mapping out his surf trip to-do list
Perspectives On P.O.V. With Mikala Jones: How the D.I.Y. documenting of surf travel has changed the game