Tag Archives: swell

Waves on Cowes Seafront

We drove along the seafront from Cowes to Gurnard.  The tide was high and the storm was bringing a swell in from the west.  Consequently, there was a lot of water along the road with sections under a few inches.  Some caution as we drove and we could get through.  Meanwhile, the waves were bashing in to the wall and splashing high in the air.  With the wind being so strong, it was tricky to hold steady for a shot and I was also a bit vulnerable to getting a lot of spray in the face.  However, I managed to get some shots and some video while minimizing how damp I got and how much salt water got near the camera.

As a kid, I always loved being down on the seafront when the weather was stormy.  It is way more fun to watch the waves crash in than to see a calm sea.  This proved to be a perfect day for me to visit as the following day things had calmed right down.

High Tide Through the Drains

The tide was very high when we got the parade in Cowes.  The water level was just below the street level.  Naturally, there was some swell, even though we were inside the harbor wall.  This meant the water was pushing back up through the drains that normally take water from the street down to the sea.  The water would force itself back up through the drains.  Sometimes it was just a small amount of water but the bigger waves resulted in a bit more flow back out of the drain.  Video is the best way to show this.  The metal of the drain cover had the level of corrosion you would expect for something with this proximity to the sea!

Forget the Surfers – Look at the Waves

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!

Surfing the Bigger Waves

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.

Stormy Santa Cruz

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.