Epic Surf

The last couple days the surf has been up on the North Shore.  Yesterday I was sitting at home not doing much of anything and decided to go up and check out some of the surf.  Surprisingly enough, there really wasn’t any traffic and I got parking at one of the breaks.  Although, in fairness, it’s not really a surf break, it’s more of a shore break.  What’s the difference?  A shore break is when the waves are breaking at the shore (duh!), and a surf break is when the waves are breaking farther out and the surfers can ride them (lightbulb).   Both are interesting for their own reasons, which is why today I went to a surf break. 

I didn’t take a lot of pictures because I’ve found that a 30 foot wave really doesn’t look all that different from a 3 foot wave on the computer.  It’s something you have to see to believe I guess. 



Wow there’s a monster 30 foot wave just reaching it’s peak!



What you can’t see in these pictures is that I am standing on higher ground.  I am actually a good 6ft above the beach that you see.  The reason I’m able to stand on higher ground is because the surf has washed in and out shaped the beach at a 45 degree angle from where I am standing to where the sand meets the sea.  These waves were reaching around 3x overhead or 15-20ft.  There were a few sets coming in even higher than that. 

What you are seeing in this picture is the water pulling away from shore colliding with the water that is washing toward shore.  When the two meet the result is that it looks like the water jumps or as if someone lit a stick of dynamite underneath the water.  It’s a really cool effect. 

This picture illustrates a couple of things.  This is the same beach that those monster waves were just rolling in at.  I am standing farther back in this shot but you can see where the sand is packed and the surf has recently washed it smooth.  That’s probably 50ft  to where the sand meets the water.  At times, the waves in Hawaii have been known to wash across roads at Lanikea and Sunset beaches where the road runs relatively close to the water.  While I was there a large set came in and a family with 2 kids was left running for higher ground before they got wet. 

When you see waves of this magnitude they command respect.  When they break at shore it sounds like thunder clapping.  It’s a beautiful sound, but it shows how much power is behind these waves.  The current it very strong and a person could be lost in less than a minute.  As I watch these I think, what idiot would get in that water because you can just hear the power behind the waves.  But people do.  And that brings me to the second point of this last shot.  Though the water is flat in this picture, it’s not safe to enter because it’s hard to predict when a set will arrive.  Also the undertow pulling back out toward sea is incredibly strong. 

This was the first time I have seen waves quite this large but we see large surf all winter.  This latest swell was enough to put a professional surf competition on hold because of the size of these things.  Each time I see it I marvel at the power of mother nature. 

Today I went to Waimea Bay with a friend.  We watch the surfers and body boarders ride these waves.  The surfers were out quite a ways to where they could catch a good ride and we saw a few walking away with only half of their surf board.  The lifeguards were making periodic announcements that there was to be no swimming and to keep your children away from where they water was meeting the sand on shore. 

I hope you enjoyed the pictures and I hope that wherever you are you get the chance to see this one day.  It truly is an amazing sight.  But remember to respect the power of the sea, it’s bigger than you are.


4 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. jenkakio
    Jan 31, 2012 @ 20:34:57

    Lucky you…no traffic! Isn’t it amazing? The feeling you get in your stomach when the waves crashes to the ground is AH-mazing. That sound thrills and terrifies me at the same time.


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