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Surfing with Google Earth

Our story begins at a party in Venice CA, the other night.  I over heard what I decided was an Australian adult male, talking about the “epic, round the world surf trip” he was on.  I’m not sure if he said epic.. I might have made that up.  Regardless, I was interested in what he was saying.  This guy, Jason Henderson, put his whole life on hold and just took off Into the Wild style.  I’ve always been jealous of that sort of thing.
That wasn’t the most interesting part, what I found totes amazeballs was how he was finding his waves.  I promised that i wouldn’t give any specific secrets away, but Jason’s been traveling around the world using Google Earth to find the best secret surf spots on the planet… or at least the places on the planet that he visited.
Read the full interview below if your A.D.D. hasn’t already gotten the best of you.  Don’t worry, there’s pictures.
Hey Jason, it’s me.. via the internet.  Tell us a bit about yourself, and your trip.
G’day Mike

My names Jason Henderson, I’m Australian but moved to hawaii in 1998 to live the dream. Recently I just got back from a 5 month trip through central america, where I started in Costa Rica and basically chased waves all the way north to California. I went down to Costa Rica solo and I spoke zero spanish and didn’t know anybody, but I did have a few maps and surf guide books and went down to see what waves were around.


Playa Hermosa next to Jaco was where I first landed and from there I started looking at swell charts and maps and started plotting where I was going to go next. This year I was actually super lucky as it was a really active storm season in the southern hemisphere and I was fortunate enough to score waves in every country except Guatamala.

What inspired you to put life on hold?

I’m 33 and like most people have been working for years and had girlfriends and car bills and other commitments which have kept me from travelling for extended amounts of time and finally I was so fed up with the rat race that I decided that there has to be more to life and sold up everything and just went for it,This trip of mine started as a journey chasing the swells and finding uncrowded waves but getting to these spots and meeting all the random people that were travelling around doing the same thing was one of the best experience of the trip.

I feel you.. At some point I plan to just start running, Forrest Gump style.  Where has the trip taken you?

I first spent 6 weeks in costa rica and pretty much just jumped around from place to place chasing swells. Basically I started in playa Hermosa and from there went north to Santa Teresa and onto Tamarindo aka Tamagringo. And thats when I saw a huge swell on the charts approaching and did a 2 day bus ride  all the way down to Pavones in the south of Costa Rica that has the second longest wave in the world where I camped out for about a month on and off.

I then went up to San Jose to see the Red Hot Chilli Peppers play and then bussed it north to Popoyo, Nicaragua where I stayed for another few weeks chasing waves around that area of coastline. I then saw another large south swell approaching so I bussed it all the  way north to El Salvadore, Las Flores to be specifc and scored some of the unbelievable right hand point breaks that El Salvador has to offer.

After that I was thinking I might start to make my way back to costa rica as i had a flight booked out of San Jose but a huge tropical storm formed off the coast of El Salvador  with 60mph winds that was supposed to hit the next day so I decided it was in my best interests to run away from the beach asap as being in a third world country is not where you want to be when a storm hits, so I decided to run and went north to guatamala to check out the mayan ruins while the storm passed. The storm then turned into a huge tropical depression and sat over guatamala and proceed to rain for weeks. Unfortunately I did get stuck there in the town of Antigua due to mud slides and crazy flooding but after about a week there. The road to Rivas in the north east opened up and I went to Tikal to see the Mayan ruins.

From there I bussed it north to mexico and travelled all the way through the mountains and down to Huatulco and chased waves all around that area for a month. From there I flew to Puerto Vallarta and jumped on a yacht and surfed/fished/dived my way north chasing another swell for just under 2 weeks until the swell went flat and then flew up to tijuana and walked across the border and spent a few weeks in cali waiting for waves but nothing really happened and the cold was killing me so I flew back home to hawaii and now i’m sitting on the beach watching the Pipe masters as i type this.

What’s next?

I’ll stay in hawaii and bartend and teach surfing and do some surf guiding for the next few months and refill the bank acct and then i’ll be off to the bahamas searching for waves in late march for a few months and then I’m not sure. We’ll see what opportunities arise, maybe mex again or indo

I remember you told me you didn’t have any interest in competition (which I like), can you elaborate?

I used to compete back in the day in australia and when I first moved to hawaii but found I wasn’t really enjoying that side of surfing and that I’d prefer to surf more alternative style surfboards and chase uncrowded waves when I wasn’t working.

Any gnarly/ near death/ exciting stories from this trip?

Apart from almost being struck by lightning twice and my car almost getting washed away by flood waters while leaving Pavones.(http://youtu.be/kEx4wi5Rs78) All of central america was kinda gnarly and not understanding everything that was going on around me due to my lack of spanish was definitely one of the scariest things. The other main fear was the fear of the unknown as I never knew what , central america has such a bad rap  due to the drug war that is going on at the moment but I personally had no problems at all.

As far as waves go though, I surfed so many waves in the middle of know where with no one else around that every spot had its own gnarly element to it. Whether it was crocodiles or other large creatures swimming around, or just strange water currents. But my scariest would have been last month in Mex at this secret spot called LA Bamba when i snapped my leash on a heavy takeoff and the current swept me down the beach and into a rock jetty and then I took another 6 waves on the head till it had washed me past it and I could come in around the corner.

Google Earth – How do you utilize it (without going into detail on specific spots)

Google earth has definitely changed the way that I look for surf. With all this new technology that we have on hand, ie satellite charts, bouoy readings for size and swell direction. We can make great calculated guesses on where and when the swell will hit and due to most roads in central america not following the coast. I could use google earth and see what points/reefs/bays were around. Which saved me so much  as I could figure out not only what the coast looked like but roads to access these spots.