Winter Surf, Big Sur Coast

Winter Surf, Big Sur Coast
Winter Surf, Big Sur Coast

Winter Surf, Big Sur Coast. Along the Pacific Coast Highway, California. January 19, 2013. © Copyright 2013 G Dan Mitchell – all rights reserved.

Huge winter surf breaks over rocky coastal islands along California’ Big Sur Coastline.

In mid-January waves of stupendous size came ashore along the California coastline, as they do at times every winter. The surf was caused by storms, but not storms that were at all visible here in California, where this was an unusually warm and sunny weekend, with clear skies and temperatures (in January!) in the low seventy degree range. As I understand it, the source of the large waves was a big Pacific storm far to the north, in the region of the Aleutian Islands, which was sending huge swells thousands of miles toward our coastline.

The news reports were making a big deal of so-called “sneaker waves” – huge waves that seemingly appear unexpectedly and sometimes wash over areas that might seem safe. Sometimes the reports overdo this sort of thing, but the warnings are justified, and this was especially the case during this occurrence. We were even surprised a bit ourselves. When we finally made it to this area along the Big Sur coast that is open to the ocean, we expected to see huge surf, but when we pulled over and looked it didn’t seem like anything all that extraordinary was happening. Yes, there were waves, but nothing that seemed out of the ordinary. However, as we grabbed gear and tripods and walked to an overlook on a bluff above the water a series of truly huge waves began to come ashore. It turns out that this pattern alternates periods of smaller waves with periodic intervals of much larger waves, and we certainly saw abundant evidence as gigantic waves completely overwhelmed these rocky offshore islands before continuing on to hit the shoreline and wash far up the beaches.

G Dan Mitchell is a California photographer and visual opportunist whose subjects include the Pacific coast, redwood forests, central California oak/grasslands, the Sierra Nevada, California deserts, urban landscapes, night photography, and more.
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Text, photographs, and other media are © Copyright G Dan Mitchell (or others when indicated) and are not in the public domain and may not be used on websites, blogs, or in other media without advance permission from G Dan Mitchell.

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