Mother Nature is a teacher and will show you things that can feel almost unfathomable if you didn't have a camera to document it.
It was toward the end of May, 2020. I found myself sitting on a guardrail next to the Shoreline Highway. The afternoon breeze was light and variable; marine layer rose and fell in sync with clean lines of swell that rolled through the steel grey ocean. I enjoyed the tranquility.
Down the road, a notoriously shallow slab of reef pulled those lines in and transformed them into some of the heavier waves I'd seen around here in a long, long time. 7 feet @ 13 seconds with a rising tide didn't seem like much in the grand scheme of things, however, everything aligned to make the reef scary flawless. There was nobody around for miles either. It's doubtful anybody would even want a taste of this gnarliness!
I wanted a closer look though. I wanted to find a cool perspective to note for another time when I might be able to coax someone into paddling out on a good day. After giving it some thought while watching more detonations over shallow rock, I knew where to go!
Somewhere down Highway 1 I traveled, found a place to park, and moseyed out a lonely trail to the edge of the sea. The reef was north of me. It was even more mind-blowing from where I stood!
I continued on along the rocky shore; even scaling a small section of cliff above the water's edge. Along exposed reef I traveled until I reach a point where I could go no further. Yet, now I basically had a front row seat to the power and fury of this rugged and spooky place. A perch on a spine of hard earth, camera to my eye, and I began shooting.
I have known about this place for decades. On my travels around these parts in those days, I always marveled at the place when it broke, but thought of it as more of a novelty; nice to look at but not surfable. Apparently I was wrong.
The first time I saw people in the water was roughly ten years ago, on a morning which could be considered pretty user-friendly. Over time I found out that the slab had been surfed with some regularity since the 1980s. It even had a name! Nomad professionals, local heavies and roaming bands of north coast thrill seekers occasionally came calling. By no means was it simply a novelty as I always imagined.
On this cool, overcast afternoon, I understood the draw. Each line of swell that rose from the deep and cascaded over the rocky outcropping mesmerized me more and more!
The north coast has so many places that are incredibly quiet and peaceful. I've enjoyed many of them. I don't believe I've ever felt more a part of the fabric of the natural world than I did here. Waves crashed. Seagulls cawed. Little birds fluttered around me. This could have been the end of the world as I knew it, and I would have felt fine.
As the tide began to rise further, breaking waves over the reef changed. It was still intense, but not as wild as before. The timing was good, as it was edging closer to dark and I still needed to make my way back to the car. The prospect of having to do it with less-than-ideal visibility didn't sit well.
Satisfied with the photos I took, and still tripping over what I had just witnessed, I drove back down to civilization as giddy as a child who'd just been given a mountain of candy!
It also reaffirmed the recent notion that, even after all these years of believing I was a “true local,” I still knew very little about this coastline.
And this idea excited me!