Was Big Wednesday Really That Big?

19 09 2014

No doubt Hurricane Marie, along with some background south swell, brought Southern and Central California some powerful waves on Wednesday,  August 27, 2014.  Some Newport local friends of mine referred to it as “dangerous.”  But, based on a simple poll of long-time surfers, the waves were not the largest to hit our beaches in recent decades.

What made this swell event stand out to most was the power of the waves.  And, since there were multiple directions of swell in the water simultaneously, the waves at most south-swell spots were surging, washing, churning and shifting.  As a result, only a few classic hurricane swell focal points were able to pick up the swell with any clarity.  My poll leaves these as the main spots that were rideable.

  1. Lower Trestles
  2. Cotton’s Point
  3. Doheny
  4. Laguna Main Beach (Brooks Street to Rockpile)
  5. Scotchman’s Cove (and the cliff at El Moro)
  6. Newport Harbor Entrance
  7. The Wedge
  8. Newport Point (16th to 18th, but no “secondary peak”)
  9. Malibu
  10. Other unidentified points

Everything else was pretty much unmakeable.  A paddle out meant getting battered by non-stop sets. Even if you made it out, you didn’t get more than one or two waves and, even with a vigorous paddle, you got washed down the beach.

Our favorite spot, Uppers, was maxed out.  There were some rideable waves, but there were a lot that were not.  The surf was very disorganized and shifting all the way from the point to Five-O’s.  In fact, Five-O’s was closed out for the most part.  We have definitely surfed larger and better shaped waves at Uppers.

Newport Point was a standout, mostly because of the number of professional surfers that showed up on Wednesday.  Judging by the photos, it was firing.  We heard the statement we’ve heard in the past:  “The Point is like the Pipeline of Southern California.”  See Surfline’s Newport Point photo page.  Having grown up at the Point, I have to say again that it wasn’t the biggest or best I’ve seen, but it was definitely on.

What was interesting is the effect this surf event had on all of Southern California.  The national news was showing footage and all the social media was on fire with photos.  You could feel the energy in the air, even inland.  By the weekend, a lot of surfers were walking around with contentment on their faces and took a few days off reflecting on the after glow.

Funny things happened.  7-11 sold out of surfboard wax.  The surfboard shops emptied their racks of “step up” boards.  And, everyone  in the water seemed to have a new respect for one another–mostly because there were plenty of waves for everyone who was willing to stroke in.

Was Big Wednesday really that big?  It was big enough; enough to recalibrate our surf meters and prepare us for the rest of the busiest tropical storm season in northeastern Pacific in a couple decades.

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