Hurricane Marie was the first strong hurricane to enter the southern California swell window since 2010.
It was a category 5 Hurricane with wind speeds reaching 160 mph. Thankfully it never made landfall or it would have caused some serious damage. However the waves it sent to the west coast did cause some damage. With the death of a surfer at Malibu and significant damage at Catalina island, it didn’t leave us with only huge surf. For surfers it brought surf that had not been seen since 1997 some say in even 30 years. Places the never break looked like winter on the north shore.
With a nice high pressure system sitting right over California, the lifeguards had their hands full as people flooded to the beach. Understandably so, it was hot and the waves where huge. While Newport beach took the brunt of the swell, the peninsula was bombarded with people trying to get a good view and some brave ones going for the ride of their life. Wednesday was the peak of the swell being nicknamed “Big Wednesday” taken from the 1978 movie of the same title.
My experience with Marie had its ups and downs. I spent most of the time behind my steering wheel trying to track down the best locations to shoot. Proving to be very difficult as the parking situation was, well bad, really bad. I had my check list of places to cover and what time of day would be the best to cover them. As time went on I decided to seek out opportunities, changing my plans on a whim. If there was a really good surfer in the water, I would hang there. If the light got weird I would move on.
After I got a few shots in the bag, I decided to get some waves for myself. Wow! That was a humbling experience. My first attempt to paddle out sent me back to the beach with my tail between my legs. It was almost like the ocean said "Ha! yeah right”. So I sat and watched it, analyzing where and when would be the best place to paddle out. Standing next to three other guys that where in the same boat as me, we probably spent 45 minutes gathering our confidence and planning a strategy.
Finally the opportunity came and I went for it. Paddling like i have never paddled before, I ended up in the impact zone for the first wave of a set. I got smashed, came up and paddled like crazy and made it over the next one. From there on, I was home free. But, by the time I got outside, I was about a mile from where I needed to be to catch any decently shaped waves. Paddling till my arms fell off, I finally made it into position. Snagging two good size waves, I felt like I was jumping off a house when I dropped in. It was amazing. Then as I am paddling back out a massive set came. Larger than any of the ones I saw earlier, we where all caught inside. I got nailed by the second wave in the impact zone. That was the most violent beating that I have ever had in the water. After two more waves landing on me, I decided that was my queue to head in.
Here are some images that I captured on "Big" Wednesday and Thursday (which was also big).
Check out some more photos at my Surfline Pro gallery linked below.