October 16, 2007

Gee, Isn’t That A Swell?

Greetings and welcome to Big Wave Wednesday. Last week Santa Cruz played host to the longest-running surf contest in Northern California, the 2007 O’Neill Cold Water Classic held down at Steamer Lane. Now in it’s 20th year, the action got underway last Tuesday with almost near-flat conditions, but the following day Steamer Lane rose up to prime form. To quote Leo Maxam in the Santa Cruz Sentinel, “Head-high and well-overhead waves were breaking off the point and roping the Slot, were breaking out at Middle Peak, and the reeling lines were firing into Indicator’s.” I couldn’t have plagiarized it better myself. As you can see from the first shot, off-shore winds were blowing the spray off the tops of the emerald green waves. Unfortunately when I got down there the waves were all over the place but this first photo gives you a little taste of the contest action. Event director Darren Brilhart summed up the day’s conditions with one word-”Epic.”

So I then headed over to Its Beach to catch some more of the thrashing and crashing along the coast (shots #2 and #3.) Then it was on to Natural Bridges for sunset as the waves were still pumping all along West Cliff. When the swell is up in Santa Cruz the coast takes on a whole new level of energy and excitement. And having some of the best surfers in the world barreling down Steamer Lane was an added bonus for our little paradise by the sea. Speaking of the most Natural of Bridges, I shot a beautiful sunset there Monday night. I’m giving you a little look today (shot #6.) To sum up the words of sunset director Geoff Gilbert it was semi-epic, just a gorgeous display of sky and clouds and a preview of what is to come this winter.

So after seeing the waves on the cliff you’re probably wondering, what was the biggest wave ever measured? Scientists at the U.S. Naval Research Laboratory in Mississippi say it goes back to September 15, 2004 when Hurricane Ivan kicked up the tallest, most extreme wave ever measured. At more than 90 feet from crest to trough and 600 feet long, this wave was measured during a Category Five storm with winds of 161 miles an hour that struck the Gulf Coast and resulted in 92 s. But compared to what I’m going to tell you about next this wave was as gentle as a lamp chop or lamb shank for you finer diners.

The biggest wave on record occurred in Lituya Bay on the southern coast of Alaska in 1958. An earthquake measuring 8.3 on the Richter scale shook loose an estimated 40 million cubic yards of dirt and glacier from a mountainside at the head of the bay. When the debris hit the water, a 1,720 foot wave was created and washed over the headland. The tsunami inundated approximately five square miles of land along the shores of Lituya Bay sending water as far as 3,600 feet inland and clearing millions of trees. This is probably not the biggest wave ever, just the biggest wave documented. Three fishing boats witnessed the Lituya Bay event. Unfortunately, one of the boats was close to shore and two people were killed. Incredibly, the other two boats rode the waves and the occupants survived but later insisted on wearing life vests whenever they showered.

So that’s our look at an el grande wave day along West Cliff Drive. Once again I would like to welcome a whole new bunch of people to Sunrise Santa Cruz. We had another great (or should I say epic?) weekend of Open Studios. I had the pleasure of seeing a few people on this list. One was the lovely Kathy Pearson who stopped by and said of this photo blog, “It’s like checking out eye candy while laughing and learning. Amazing photography. You’re making my day.” Kathy, your words warm my heart and a few other major organs. That is our goal here at sunrise headquarters. To show you the incredible beauty of Santa Cruz, teach you some things you might not know, provoke a few laughs and then throw in a couple of late scores. I hope it’s working for everyone out there because it’s just going to get better and better. Unless, of course, I’m delusional and I’ve already peaked and I’m in the twilight years. You know, like the Bush Administration. Either way, enjoy the big waves and as it said on a T-shirt I saw down at the contest, “If it swells, ride it.” Enough said.

1 Comment »

  1. I think you’re more like Al Gore, just a sitcom away from eternal warm water in LA (no, not Patterson) to redemption in Santa Cruz. Looking forward to a fabulous winter of beautiful sunrises in California while the snow falls here in Colorado…

    Comment by Brad — October 17, 2007 @ 2:51 pm

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