1. Google Earth. Yes, I know. Everyone knows about this. But in all seriousness, if you know even the slightest bit about topography/bathymetry and how a wave breaks, you’ll probably be able to find something. And one of the most helpful things about this satellite-assisted search is that you’ll be able to tell (at least a little bit) what direction your new spot will work on.
2. Look both ways. The last time I “found” a new wave, I was surfing one that was well known. In fact, I had to crane my head around a bunch of heads to see it. It was right there, just two hundred yards away, breaking off a rock and funnellingdown the line. Of course, it was breaking into ankle deep water and, as it turns out, only worked on that exact swell direction, period, swell height, tide, wind speed, lunar cycle, and Saturn’s relation to Pluto, but you never know. It was right there, and no one was on it except me.
3. Settle for it. Sometimes you’ll drive by something a thousand times on your way to something you know is better. But sometimes, just go look. You know that wave you think might work when it’s just a little more west? Next time it’s a little more west, go sit there for a few hours and see what happens. Sure, you’ll miss a sure thing at the popular spot, but that will happen again. And if you score, you don’t have to tell anyone about it.
4. Listen to rumours. There’s always a rumour of a wave somewhere. Most of the time, they’re highly exaggerated and wildly speculative, because surfers are worse than fishermen when it comes to exaggeration and speculation, but there’s the off-chance there’s something to what they’re saying. I call these “Grape-vine Waves.” Go find one.
5. Just go and LOOK. No one walks anymore. For those of you who have surfed Trestles (which is probably a LOT of you), I surfed there for the first time a few years ago. When we were deciding where to go, one of my friends was leery about going there because it was a “crazy long walk.” I thought that a “crazy long walk” meant an hour or more through rough terrain. Turns out it meant “a sunny stroll on a paved, beautiful trail.” Suck it up. Go get your feet dirty. Wade through rivers, swim through bays, climb up cliffs.