While watching the waves come rushing in to the Santa Cruz shore, I saw something floating on the surface just a little way out. It appeared to be seaweed but that wasn’t all that was there. A look through the longer lens confirmed that a sea otter was sitting out there enjoying the ride. The clump of weed was drifting closer in so, when the waves started to break over the top, the otter would dive underneath and pop back up once the turmoil had passed. The current was taking him along the shoreline over time so we lost track of where he ended up but he seemed to be enjoying the ride quite a lot!
Watching the surfers trying to catch the big waves was cool but, even when they didn’t make it, I wasn’t disappointed. The waves themselves were fantastic to watch. The color of the water as the waves built up as they came into the shallows and then became unstable and broke was fantastic. The spray from the breaking wave would fly back up the face of the wave and over the crest. Sometimes you would briefly see into the tube and the wave rolled towards us. Fantastic stuff and so powerful!
With the big waves coming in at Santa Cruz, the surfers were working in a way we had not seen before. They were split into two groups, both of which were further away from us than normal. I assume that being closer in to the rocks with such waves was not good for your health! One group was further in to the bay and I assume that they were the less skilled/adventurous surfers. They seemed to be doing okay with the waves that were coming their way.
Another group was a lot further out. They seemed intent on picking up the biggest waves as they came in. Getting on to these big waves was not a straightforward exercise. Plenty of the surfers started paddling as the waves came in but they weren’t all able to get up to speed. The big waves with their long wavelength must require a different technique. Once up, some of the surfers were getting a long run as the waves didn’t always break right away. Other times the wave would break and they would head either towards us or away from us. When they went away, we often couldn’t see much of what was happening to them unless a board flipped up in the air. When they came our way, we had a far better view.
Do you ever see an advertising image of someone doing something artistic outdoors and you think to yourself, “No-one ever does anything like that. It’s so contrived.” How about a guy standing on a rocky outcrop above the pounding surf playing the trumpet? That is exactly what we came across on the shore in Santa Cruz. This guy was just standing out there playing his trumpet. What a strange thing to see. It did sound pretty good though. He was a pretty decent player!
The Pacific Coast is picturesque at any time. Add into the mix a decent swell and things start to look really cool. We took a trip to Santa Cruz while my mum was staying and the waves were larger than we have seen on any of our previous visits. The waves were running up to the shore and crashing against the rocks in a very dramatic way. This wasn’t a stormy day. There was some wind but the sun was out and it was a very pleasant temperature. However, something out in the ocean was a bit more active and it had driven the big waves towards the shore.
Not only were the waves crashing into the rocks along the shore, they were also crashing into each other. As one wave hit the shore, it would reflect back out to see. There it would meet the next wave coming in. Waves go in phases with times of small waves interspersed with times of big waves. (An old Navy helicopter pilot friend of mine – used to landing on pitching decks – said they come in sevens. I don’t know whether this is accurate but it seems about right.) When a couple of big waves were together, the impact of the reflecting wave on the incoming wave was pretty dramatic with the water shooting vertically in the air. I can stand and watch waves all day without any trouble. Each one is slightly different and they are so full of power. They are mesmerizing.
There was a decent swell coming in of the Pacific while we were in Santa Cruz. People were surfing at a number of locations. The majority were off the headland by the lighthouse. A lot of the waves were carrying the surfers a long distance but they weren’t getting a lot of action in during their runs. Every once in a while, though, someone was able to really get things moving. These are some of the shots I got during the day.
The headland at Santa Cruz includes a narrow inlet in the cliff face. As the waves come in, this inlet can concentrate the wave and result in some spraying up out of the top when the wave runs out of places to go. The wave action varies a lot so often there is nothing to see from above. However, as the waves grow, they can spray out a bit or, if the wave is really big, fire a plume of spray and debris up into the air and onto the top of the cliff. A little patience and some luck is required to get this to work for you but it is fun to see – particularly if people have got a bit too close during the quiet times and are not expecting the big one!
Surfing off the headland at Santa Cruz involves getting into the water a distance away and then paddling across. If that seems like too much hard work, you can climb the fence and walk out onto the headland with your board before jumping off the cliff. We saw a couple of guys doing that while we were there. There was little hesitation so I guess they had done this before.
They weren’t alone! I saw one guy jump off quite a high area. He was followed by a friend of his and I was ready when she jumped. A burst of shots means I can animate the jumps! I did two versions of this. One that doesn’t move the background and results in some white space moving around. The other tracks the subject. Not sure which I prefer.
If you have a nice Sunday morning with nothing planned, heading to Santa Cruz is worth it. The shore on the north side of the bay is a great place to hang out. Everything is so laid back. I guess people don’t go there if they are up tight. It always seems that everyone is having a nice time. That includes the regular contingent of surfers.
The conditions on our last visit were mixed for surfing. Occasionally a good swell would come ashore and everyone would jump on the opportunity. Most of the time things were calmer and the surfers would sit on their boards waiting patiently. There is a line close to the rocks that offers more but seems to be the territory of the more capable surfers.
To get pictures needs as much patience as the surfers have. Of course, it is Sunday morning so I am not in any hurry. I am happy to wait and see what happens. Every once in a while, someone comes in so close to the rocks that you don’t realize that they are there until they are past. In that case, you miss the shot and instead appreciate the skill.
I am fascinated by waves. I can easily spend hours at the shore watching the waves come rolling in. They are always changing and that is, in itself, interesting to me. Another thing I love is seeing the color in the water as the wave grows and breaks. As the wave gets close to breaking, the light shines through the water as it thins creating a green color that I love. However, on the visit to Santa Cruz, there was something new to see.
There is a lot of seaweed along the shore and it floats just below the surface. As the waves roll in, the weed floats along with them. The front of the wave rises up and the weed is just below the surface. As the light starts to come through the wave, the shadow of the seaweed shows itself. Strange patterns appear. They appear to move as if they are creatures lurking just below the surface. This is the area where a lot of the surfers are and it is almost as if some sea creature is hiding from them just out of sight. Then again, I might allow my imagination to get away from me some times!