Search Stories: Surfing for the Perfect Wave

Thursday, September 29, 2011 at 11:52 AM

(Cross posted from the Google Inside Search Blog)

Searches can become stories. Some are inspiring, some change the way we see the world, and some just put a smile on our face. Today we continue our series of posts about people who have used Google to discover or do something extraordinary. Have a story? Share it. - Ed.


I’ve surfed all my life. And every summer I spend a couple weeks with my family on a small island called Hornby just east of Vancouver Island. I always think that area would be paradise if only it had great surf. It turns out it does... And with the help of Google Maps and Search, local pro surfer Sepp Bruhwiler is well on his way to finding that perfect wave that breaks somewhere off Vancouver's west coast.

Vancouver Island has a large, beautiful coastline. Before Google, local fishermen would tell Sepp about these enormous waves they found along some remote part of the coast. Sepp would run down to the dock, hop in a boat, and try his luck tracking down those elusive "breaks". It was an imprecise science with mixed results.

Sepp’s quest then led him to pull up the satellite layer in Google Maps, where he scanned the coastline near his hometown of Tofino. What, exactly, was he was searching for? That tell-tale image of a line of curling white swells -- waves.

Just like Google Maps lets you zoom in to explore your city, your street and your house, that same viewing experience extends to Canada's rugged coastlines. As Sepp put it, "we navigated the entire coastline by dragging my finger across my phone." When he found what he was looking for, he zoomed in and put a virtual pin in the location of the waves. Sepp and his surfing pro friends then pulled up the weather conditions and a swell report from nearby buoys on Google Search. And, just like that, it was on!

They found great waves that had possibly never been ridden before. In the words of Sepp’s friend, Pete Devries: "To go to a spot that few people have surfed ever before, that's been breaking for hundreds, maybe thousands of years, keeps you wondering what else is out there and what else we could possibly find."

I’m inspired. Next summer when I head up north, I plan to bring my surfboard, a smartphone, and a really warm wetsuit. I can’t wait to join Sepp in the never ending search for great new waves.

Surf on...