The best waves discovered in the 21st century

Less than 16 years ago, some of the most well-known waves in the world had never been surfed.

However with modern tools like Google Earth, GPS and high-powered jet skis, surf adventurers started to discover more perfect waves. Here are the best of those newly-found swells.

Skeleton Bay, Namibia

Skeleton Bay, discovered with satellites. Photo Google Earth
Skeleton Bay, discovered with satellites. Photo: Google Earth
In 2007, American surfer Brian Gable entered Skeleton Bay into SURFING’s Google Earth Challenge 2 competition, where readers submitted satellite pictures of potential, undiscovered surf breaks.

A year later, when the first footage of the wave appeared, it was clear that an epic wave was found.

Although Skeleton Bay sits on the edge of one of the oldest deserts in the world, the fact that 35 million cubic feet of sand flows past Skeleton Bay per year means it is constantly on the move. Twenty years ago it might not have existed, and in 20 years it may be gone.

Right now, though, it’s one of surfing’s best waves.

Aleutian Islands, Alaska

<iframe src=”https://player.vimeo.com/video/123451129″ width=”612″ height=”412″ frameborder=”0″ webkitallowfullscreen mozallowfullscreen allowfullscreen></iframe><p><a href=”https://vimeo.com/123451129″>The Cradle of Storms – SURFER</a> from <a href=”https://vimeo.com/theenthusiastnetwork”>TheEnthusiastNetwork</a> on <a href=”https://vimeo.com”>Vimeo</a>.</p>

In 2014, Alex Gray, Josh Mulcoy and Pete Devries journeyed through the remote Aleutian Arc of Alaska and discovered a series of world-class waves.

Using modern GPS technology, Word-War-II-era planes, quad bikes and intuition, the trio explored the freezing, unchartered waves and documented it in their movie The Cradle of Storms.

An ancient landscape became a surfing frontier.

The Right, Western Australia

Chris Ross showing why this wave remained unmolested for a millennia. Photo: Russ Ord
Chris Ross showing why this wave remained unmolested for a millennia. Photo: Russ Ord
The infamous right-hand slab, located off the isolated coast of Western Australia, was tackled by local fisherman and body boarders around a decade ago. Before long, word spread of the wave’s power and fury.

By 2007, big-wave chargers like Mark Mathews, Richie Vaculik and Paul Paterson realized that this was a wave that could hold its shape in giant conditions. Footage of the surf spread worldwide.

Now, every time it breaks, there is a host of surfers lined up to tackle it. In its very short existence, The Right has established itself as one of the world’s most infamous waves.

Angola, South Africa


Most of surf explorer Kepa Acero’s 21st-century finds have started with days of research on Google Earth and finished with hundreds of days of traveling, alone.

This mix of modern methodology and ancient adventure had him hunting down previously un-surfed waves in Patagonia, India, Indonesia and Angola. Since the start of the millennium, perhaps no individual has unveiled more waves than Acero. And between 2012 and 2013, Acero tackled Angola. Under Desert Sun, by Kevin Voegtlin, documents the journey.

Rileys, Ireland

Fergal Smith reaps the rewards of Mickey's hard work. Photo by Mickey Smith
Fergal Smith reaps the rewards of Mickey’s hard work. Photo: Mickey Smith
At the start of the century, photographer and surfer Mickey Smith started to scout the west coast of Ireland near his adopted home of Lahinch.

Smith is a traditionalist though. Instead of Google Earth or helicopter flights, the Englishman simply took off with his camera, board and dog and walked the wild coastline.

It took years of trudging in mud to discover two of Ireland’s, and the world’s, best big-wave spots which he named Rileys and Aileens. After sharing the information with his mates, and then documenting the action, the waves became world famous.

Galicia slabs, Spain

<iframe src=”https://player.vimeo.com/video/117177092″ width=”612″ height=”412″ frameborder=”0″ webkitallowfullscreen mozallowfullscreen allowfullscreen></iframe> <p><a href=”https://vimeo.com/117177092″>Discovering Galice. Coast Of Death – TEASER</a> from <a href=”https://vimeo.com/axi”>Axi Muniain</a> on <a href=”https://vimeo.com”>Vimeo</a>.</p>

The Galician coast of Northern Spain has been a smuggler’s paradise for over 500 years. Its rocky, isolated and treacherous coast is a fantastic spot to hide all sorts of treasures and contraband either entering or leaving Europe. Surfers, however, came late to the party.

While the waves in the area have been surfed since the ’70s, it is only in the last five years that some of its true big-wave potential has been unlocked.

Most of the treasure chests have been picked by big-wave surfer Axi Muniain, who spent the better part of three years scouring the coast by bus, on foot and in the water by jet ski. He discovered a skew of waves, and two, in particular, with world-class potential.

Smugglers would be proud.

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