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Your secret spot has finished loading. Photo: Gilley

Shea Lopez

Cloud Break and Restaurants. By the time we left the theater, we'd agreed on the terms of the assignment, and within weeks.

I've often thought that a good sandbar is a kind of a temporary laboratory for the real kind of surf culture--the stuff that actually happens in a lineup. Just recently, however, I realized that a good sandbar is also the perfect laboratory for the idea of a secret spot as well.Think of any long and relatively unhindered stretch of beach--from Hossegor to Big Sur--and you'll find a clutch of surfers who keep an eye on the movement of sand. When a bar shapes up into something special, only a couple of trajectories can take place that essentially determine the culture of its lineup.Either the first couple of surfers who discover the new break simply enjoy it, and return alone, or they blab, and lineup grows, maxing out a limited resource, causing the development of a hierarchy, and creating conditions for the purging of excess and unwanted surfers. The entire evolution can occur in the short lifespan of an average, middle-of-the-beach sandbar.In essence, either this new "spot" remains a "secret," or it doesn't. But I would argue that a lineup that quickly develops on a sandbar is simply a condensed model of what happens to all types breaks when surfers communicate over time. The surfers who establish a spot make an agreement, an unspoken contract, that decides whether a particular break is granted a "secret," or reserved, status. Either that agreement holds or it doesn't, but the process is well established. In fact, the very idea of a "secret spot" has held such an ennobled, even mythical, position within the surf culture worldwide that it's as iconic now as the idea of "the perfect wave" was 50 years ago.As a cultural development, however, the "secret spot" may not last much longer. In fact, the tools of communication available today threaten to destroy the entire category of the "secret." And those new media tools employ our personal vanity, or our professions, to do it.Former Dream Tour surfer Shea Lopez has spent much of his retirement from competition surfing rare, out-of-the-way, or localized spots. He says documenting those spots, is a tricky proposition. "As a pro surfer, documenting your sessions is your livelihood. And so surfing and recording secrets is always a balance. But often times, I'm looking for waves that the average surfer just isn't looking for, because they're too remote, too heavy, or just too difficult to surf--rivers, currents, extreme tides, dry rocks, sharks, cold water, or all of the above," Shea says.