Yelp! for Surf Spots

Yelp! for Surf Spots

You should review your break

By Stuart Cornuelle

If you ever use Google, which I've heard some people do, you're sure to eventually come across a search result directing you to a Yelp! page. That website, which provides consumer reviews of service businesses like restaurants and bars (and surf shops, actually), is bringing new magnitudes of accountability to businesses who must now treat every customer as a potential Yelper. It's also generating valuable information about those businesses that can be accessed without ever actually visiting them. Not every review is spot-on, but the collective wisdom of the crowd usually paints a fairly accurate picture of the place in question — enough to determine, at least, whether you want to go and spend your money there.

How long until there's a version for surf spots? A platform for cataloging the combined knowledge of thousands of surfers to profile every aspect of every break, from the physical (Where's the channel? Where to park? Watch out for that boulder on the inside right!) to the social (Surf P.E. practices here on weekdays; The guy with a bright red Tundra is violent; Taylor Knox filmed part of Arc here; etc).

A natural response is that this would compromise the value of first-hand experience. The subtleties of a surf spot reveal themselves with time and devotion, and giving them away like smart shopper tips would reward the unqualified with privileged information.

Which sounds sort of like Surfline. And WetSand. And WannaSurf. Etc.

The (sometimes tragic but unavoidable) truth is that technology is to information what hormones are to VD. The Internet finds ways to tell people what they want to know, and if you think surfing's secrets are protected by some fraternal code of silence, well, that notion went out with the universal surf cam.

A "Yelp! for surf spots" could be a good thing: beginners would see which places to avoid, and there would be a public record of lineup misbehavior that might discourage people from breaking the rules. Surfers would learn about (and spread out to) second-tier spots instead of all making straight for the well-known standards.

At face value, of course, this is still an awful idea, but given that something like it will probably debut on our browsers long before man-made waves are a reality, it's worth trying to find the positives. And if you're the enterprising person who creates such a website, share some of the proceeds with your friends at SURFING (the real Yelp! pulls in around $30 million per year). Also, a very sincere curse on your soul, from the entire surfing community.