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Teiki Mathieu Baillan surfing a self-made Alaia surfboard in Lances Left, Mentawaï, Indonesia. Photo by C. Naslain, 2009.

Surf spot atlas made by surfers for surfers
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Howto find GPS coordinates of a surf spot without a GPS ?

This page describes how to find the GPS coordinates of a surf spot that you know, to add or complete a Wannasurf.com surf spot datasheet, even if you don't know or have a GPS.

Topics of this section:

Before going any further, please read why it is important to set surf spots GPS coordinates.

Even if you don't know exactly where the surf spot is located, it is important to add an aproximative GPS location. This will allows Wannasurf.com to plot the surf spot on maps. It will be possible later to edit the surf spot and set an exact location.

There is no magic tool that provide unknown surf spot location ;-) So we presume here that you know where the surf spot you are looking GPS coordinates for is.

There are several ways to find GPS coordinates. The simplest way is to use an internet website that allows to browse world maps (Google Maps or Terraserver), but you can also use a free standalone application (Google Earth or the NASA WorldWind). Note: For the standalone applications, you must have a high spped internet connexion to get satellite maps from servers.

For all of these applications, you will have to follow the following steps:

  1. Browse the world map
  2. Zoom in to the surf spot zone
  3. Get the surf spot GPS coordinates (latitude and longitude)
  4. Set these coordinates into Wannasurf.com
Important note GPS coordinates are set in decimal values. The sign of the number is important. This tells if the surf spot is north or south, east or west ! Take care to copy coordinates with their signs.
Latitude: + is north, - is south
Longitude: + is east, - is west

Google Maps website

Internet adress: http://maps.google.com/maps?ll=28.921631,3.515625&spn=132.914979,276.539063&t=h&hl=en

Pros: Fast website. You can zoom in very quickly to a zone

Cons: All zones are not detailed (Ex: Pacific islands), need to open a new page to get the GPS coordinates.

Step by step procedure:

  1. Connect Google maps website at http://maps.google.com (link with layer set to Hybrid, and zoomed out)
    Note: By default, Google maps is set to vectorial map, and centered on USA. It is recommended to set Google maps in Satellite or Hybrid view to browse maps
  2. Double click the world map (to center the surf spot, country level)
  3. Use the "Zoom level" ruler to Zoom in.
    If necessary, double click to re-center the map, and zoom in again.
    If the maximum resolution is reached, the map is displayed with the following comment: "We're sorry but we don't have imagery at this zoom level...". Zoom out to retreive the best map.
  4. Get the surf spot GPS coordinates (latitude and longitude)
    You must double click the map at the surf spot location before continuing ! Retreived coordinates are those for the center of the picture...
    Click the link named "Link to this page" (right pannel)
    The page is reloaded and the adress bar now contains the surf spot coordinates. You must copy latitude and longitude coordinates directly from the adress bar:
    • Surf Spot coordinates are included in the adress bar after 'll='
    • Latitude value is the number just after 'll=' and before the comma.
    • Longitude value is the second number just after the comma and before the next '&'.
      Remember to keep the minus sign if displayed
  5. Set these coordinates into Wannasurf.com (Add spot form or Edit spot form) with WGS84 datum.

Screenshot of the browser adressbar:

- Latitude is the green number in the example: 26.835733333333000

- Longitude is blue number in the example: 33.991866666667001

Screenshot of the interface:

Terraserver website

Internet adress: http://www.terraserver.com

Pros: Allows to browse almost the whole world to surf spot zones.

Cons: A bit slow, need many clicks to get the full detailed view of a zone.

Step by step procedure:

  1. Connect Terraserver website at http://www.terraserver.com
  2. Click the world map (country level)
  3. Select "Zoom in" option (Image Navigation pannel)
  4. Click the map to zoom in up to the surf spot location. When the maximum resolution is reached, a warning message is displayed.
    Click once again to the surf spot location. The surf spot is set at the center of the picture.
  5. Get the surf spot GPS coordinates (latitude and longitude)
    Even if the surf spot coordinates are displayed in the info pannel, the easyest is to copy latitude and longitude coordinates directly from the adress bar:
    • Latitude value is the number after cpy=
    • Longitude value is the number after cpx=
    Remember to keep the minus sign if displayed
  6. Set these coordinates into Wannasurf.com (Add spot form or Edit spot form) with WGS84 datum.

Screenshot of the browser adressbar:

- Latitude is the green number in the example: 26.835733333333000

- Longitude is blue number in the example: 33.991866666667001

Screenshot of the interface:

Google Earth application

Internet adress: Google Earth free application. You can download it at http://earth.google.com/. This application is still a beta version, but works fine.

Pros: Fast map browsing, quick download (10 Mo).

Cons: Poor details in some zones (Pacific islands for example).

Step by step procedure:

  1. Launch Google Earth
  2. Drag and drop the earth to navigate to the surf spot zone
  3. Zoom in to the surf spot location (mouse wheel).
    If necessary, double click to re-center the map, and zoom in again.
  4. Get the surf spot GPS coordinates (latitude and longitude)
    GPS coordinates are displayed at the status bar (bottom).
    The easyest way to copy and paste surf spot location is to add a placemark (Ctrl+N). Move the placemark icon to the exact location of the surf spot. Then edit the placemark (edit window should already be open) and check Advanced option. In the second tab named Location, latitude and longitude are given.
    This allows you to copy and paste the longitude and latitude without errors.
  5. Then, paste latitude and longitude coordinates to Wannasurf.com (Add spot form or Edit spot form) with WGS84 datum
    Remember to keep the minus sign if displayed

Google Earth placemark example:

  In this example, GPS coordinates are:
- Latitude is the green number in the example: 26.835733
- Longitude is blue number in the example: 33.991857

Screenshot of the interface:

NASA WorldWind application

Internet adress: Worldwind is a NASA free application under GPL licence. You can download it at http://worldwind.arc.nasa.gov/. Also have a look on the key chart to know how navigate World Wind.

Pros: Very nice satellite pictures. You can save WorldWind URLs.

Cons: Size of the setup program (130 Mo to download !), a bit slow compared to Google Earth.

Step by step procedure:

  1. Launch WorldWind
  2. Double click the world map to navigate to the surf spot zone
  3. Zoom in to the surf spot location (mouse wheel).
    If necessary, double click to re-center the map, and zoom in again.
  4. Get the surf spot GPS coordinates (latitude and longitude)
    GPS coordinates are displayed on the top-right (if Position-Information option is enabled, F10)
    Once the surf spot located, copy the location: Edit > Copy (Ctrl+C) and paste this link to a text based application (such as Notepad).
    This allows you to copy and paste the longitude and latitude without errors.
  5. Then, paste latitude and longitude coordinates to Wannasurf.com (Add spot form or Edit spot form) with WGS84 datum
    Remember to keep the minus sign if displayed

WorldWind URL example:

worldwind://goto/world=Earth&lat=26.83558&lon=33.99181&alt=12500

- Latitude is the green number in the example: 26.83558

- Longitude is blue number in the example: 33.99181

Screenshot of the interface:

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