[2021 Update: A year after first publishing this article, we finally tracked down the person who made this image and it turned out to be a world-famous artist. Intrigued? You can find a full interview with them about the process and motivation behind creating the picture they call ‘Endless Lineup’ in the pages of our latest print edition. Get a copy here.]
All this week on the Wavelength Instagram we’re telling the true stories behind some of the internet’s most widely shared surf shots.
First up, this dubious viral favourite, which we outed as a straight-up photoshop job earlier today (don’t worry though, the whole series won’t be fakies). Here, we’ll show our workings and walk you through the online archaeological dig that led us to that conclusion.
In most instances where the image appears online, it’s claimed to feature Chicama in Peru, with a reverse search turning up hundreds of results associated with the tagline ‘the longest left in the world’.
While the Peruvian point does regularly feature lines spinning off for as far as the eye can see and rides lasting over 1km on a good day, it breaks over a scattering of sand and rocks, rather than the reef which can clearly be seen in the foreground of the image in question.
As eagled eyed viewers have often pointed out in pernickety online forums, the image in fact depicts Impossibles on Bali’s Bukit Peninsula, with the reef’s distinctive striations and the little corner of rock jutting up on the left of the frame serving as the biggest clues.
We’ve seen the shot occasionally attributed to Bali based surf photog Jason Childs, so we dropped him a message and he confirmed that it could well be based off one of his images, probably captured at some point in the mid 2000’s, with the original long since buried in his hard drives.
However, we hoped it might exist somewhere online, so set about sifting through the hundreds of results returned by a reverse image search. Eventually, we found an image that looked to be an earlier version, before the reef foreground had been added, and the waves enhanced to look more hollow.
It first popped up online in around 2014 and like its younger more viral cousin, was also widely billed as Chicama. After a lot more digging, we found an old thumbnail, watermarked version of the shot it appeared to be based off; featuring a four-wave set breaking at Impossibles. It was attributed to another Indo based surf photographer named Alejandro Plesch. Again, he confirmed that the image could well be his, and that he had spent a lot of time shooting that angle of Impossibles around that time, but like Childs, he couldn’t say for certain.
Based off these findings, we concluded the Photoshop comp that has been widely circulated online is probably a merging of two images; one which features the foreground (possibly by Childs) and one which featured the waves (possibly by Plesch). Someone has duplicated the waves from Plesch’s image, creating the illusion of a never-ending set, (with obvious repetition in waves 4,5 and 7). And then, at some later point, the foreground has been added and the curl of the waves enhanced to make them more hollow.
Are you convinced by our findings? Is it case closed? Let us know in the comments…