The concept of the secret spot is still out there, kind of…
The first wave that Mick Fanning rode at The Snake was a barrel that was medium height and of medium depth. He was totally slotted, but he never came out. The filmer continued shooting, a perfect, spitting right-hand barrel as if maybe Mick was still in there. It was a strange wave to use to open a flick that had such incredible quality, but it sucked me in, kept me curious. What the fuck was 'The Snake' and did it actually deserve the hype?
It's a good combination. The fastest surfer in the world, surfing one of the fastest right-handers in the world. This was a hypnotic, reeling right-hander that blew minds, and Fanning's surfing was the ideal foil to reveal the perfection, as well as the challenges of surfing The Snake. An excellent wave for a surfer of that calibre, however many surfers would not consider a reeling, freight-train right-hander breaking on such shallow sand and at that speed as their ideal set-up.
It's not necessarily about the wave though. The Snake discovery was more about the mythology of secret spots, the notion that the search is still very much alive. In 1963 Bruce Brown discovered St Francis Bay, and 54 years later Fanning paddled out at this spot, as secret as it gets.
Mick does have an excellent exploratory team behind him at Rip Curl. It is a hard ask for mortals to find and venture to new waves in this day and age unless there is a team as well as a budget behind them.
Yet the discovery of The Snake proves that there are still legit secret spots around the world that are world-class. Africa quite possibly holds a lot of them. There is so much coastline, much of it rough and war-torn, inhospitable, and with stretches impossible to traverse. Some sections of coastline are only accessible by boat, and some are so gnarly, so dangerous, that they simply cannot be crossed.
The other thing that the discovery of The Snake revealed is that there are still people, surfers, out there and searching, trying to find the next secret. There are some serious Google Earth addicts with new surf breaks as their primary focus.
It's a tricky game, though, surf exploration. Find a gem of a spot, and what do you do? Keep it to yourself until eventually, someone lets the secret out? It's kind of selfish, but there is an old saying, 'all's fair in love and war and secret spots,' or something like that.
Or do you immediately take the gamble and start buying up land in front? This is usually a cheap but risky business venture in third world countries, but with possibly massive rewards when the spot becomes the next JBay.
Challenging questions that don't really need any answers. The fact that this wave exists is enough to keep the idea of legitimate secret spots alive. What do we really know about Patagonia? Does that restricted coastal zone in the middle of the Chilean coastline offer another slice of perfection just around the corner from one of the greatest lefts in the country? (Yes). Is that left in Angola a hellavu lot more consistent than we all think? (Can't tell you.) What secrets is Kepa Acero really holding? (...have to kill you on this one etc.)
There are enough people who know the location of The Snake now. While it is a mission to get to, there is no traversing through deserts, climbing mountains, avoiding landmines or clambering through jungles to get there. Accommodation is available, and you can drive from the airport to your quarters.
There is a shop called The Red Herring right in front of the break, selling the delicious, locally-brewed Gullible Beer to the thirsty fishermen, who also like to dine on the local delicacy – wild goose.
Actually, there are a lot of landmines around, of a different sort. The volume of human turds on the beach at The Snake is incredible. They swirl around with the incoming tides and congeal into brown, syrupy mounds that bake and stink in the sun.
On top of this, it is one of the world's most fickle waves, a rare bird requiring a very specific combination of elements to allow the right swell to make landfall – but it does happen, often enough for it to be exciting. So if you're going to go looking after the COVID chaos is over, then godspeed.