12 March 2011

After the Tsunami (HMB Jetty)

Photo of tsunami suckout at Miramontes Point, Half Moon Bay, by Luke Kilpatrick
I woke yesterday to news of a huge earthquake in Japan, and a tsunami warning for the NorCal coast. Low-lying areas, including Linda Mar and El Granada near the Jetty, were evacuated. The first surge hit just after 8 am, fortunately at a fairly low tide. I was at work 20 miles inland but hungrily followed the tweets of my surfing buddies who stood watch in Half Moon Bay (Luke took this video) and Santa Cruz (Darren snapped the photo at left). The tsunami from the Chile earthquake last year was barely noticeable, but this one was dramatic. The sea was sucked out below the level of the lowest low tide, exposing portions of the bottom we never see. Then within a few minutes, the water filled back in to a mid-tide level. This cycle repeated through the morning. Santa Cruz Harbor was hard hit, with boats breaking free and smashing into docks and other boats, pushed by the strong currents of rising and falling water. Pillar Point Harbor fared well, but these time lapse photos show the significant sea level change. I had an early work meeting so wasn't planning to surf anyway, but many of the local beaches were closed, although some surfers snuck out nevertheless (where there's a wave, there's a way).

Today the tsunami warning was dropped to an advisory, and I was able to get in one last dawn patrol before the government messes with our minds by setting the time ahead an hour. I love to surf at first light. I love the stillness of the world on the cusp of waking, the solitude, the serenity. I'll miss it until sunrise catches up with the clock again. With a sizable swell in the water, the Jetty was the best choice, and I was the first surfer into the water. The paddle was tough, and by the time I made it almost outside, a shortboarder was already riding. I was nearly to the lineup when a wave started to break in front of me. I thought I could make it over the top but instead my board caught it and I was made to ride backwards all the way inside to waist-deep water. Crap! After a total of about 15 minutes of slogging, I got outside and took a breather. The waves were shifty and mixed up, waist- to head-high. I rode a few nice rights, including one with a long shoulder, and a few good lefts too, with some fun drops. Darren filmed me on a gutless little wave (had to pump it):
Then he joined me in the water as the crowd grew, and we saw Luke taking photos from the rocks. I couldn't catch a wave for the camera to save my life, except this:
Too soon it was time for one more because I had to go, but I blew the drop and got pushed far inside again. That just couldn't be my last wave, so I headed back out. It was another 10 minutes of hard paddling, turtling and shoving through, during which I got pushed uncomfortably close the the riprap jetty, but I made it back out to where Luke had joined Darren. I had to wait for it, but my ride home came through, a left with a fun head-high drop and a little shoulder to play on. Woot!
Surfline: We've got a good sized mix of surf on tap this morning as WNW (270-305) groundswell slowly backs down, mixing with modest South (170-190) swell. Good exposures are in the head high to overhead+ range, with top spots running well overhead with a few lingering sets pushing double overhead. Winds are light/variable for fairly smooth surface conditions, although a lot of spots are still seeing some lump/jumble. Buoy 46012: (Wave) SWELL: 9.2 ft at 13.8 s WNW 22 / WIND WAVE: 1.0 ft at 3.7 s WNW / WVHT: 9.2 ft / APD: 9.4 s / MWD: 282 (Met) WSPD: 0 kts / GST: 4 kts / WVHT: 9.2 ft / DPD: 14.0 s / ATMP: 51.4° F / WTMP: 52.9° F. Tide: 3' falling to 1'.


  1. Yep Daylight saving sucks for surfers. Thank a Reputed Higher Being after being put through a recent three year trial it was thrown out again, 4th time I think, in a referendum in this state!

  2. I wish they'd do away with it here, but there's too much inertia.

  3. Great shot of you(?) and nice wave!!

  4. Yep, that's me! Wish I could've gotten a better ride while Luke was taking pix. Next time...