John Vonderlin Goes to the Big Waves

Big Wave Spot

Story/Phots by John Vonderlin

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Meg and I went out to the coast on Sunday, partly to check out the big waves that were hitting our local shores. With Saturday’s news of two more drownings off Pillar Point after their small boat overturned, I was feeling a little more cautious then usual. So, we first went to one of the best, but safest places I know of to experience the noisy and foam-spitting arrival of these giants. That spot being Pescadero Point at Pescadero Beach. This is not the traditional and map-named Pescadero Point that I recently posted the “Bathhouse Rock” story about, which is about a mile south. But, rather the small rocky promontory jutting out from the coast, just west of  the “T” intersection of Pescadero Road and Highway 1.

Picture #200809978 at the California Coastal Records Project (CCRP) shows the Point and the surrounding well.

The reason I like this spot for wave watching is that the promontory of the point is narrow, which gives a feeling of being surrounded on three sides by raging whitewater when you climb out towards its end. Yet, you are high enough almost all of the way out to be reasonably safe, even in the heaviest surf.

Most people tend to stop when they come to the first bluff after descending the stairs. It takes just a fairly easy climb down to water level and then back up the next rock further out to bring you to a spot that puts you much more up-close and personal with Neptune’s wrath. At the same time, whatever geologic aspect that has kept this promontory from being eroded, has left large, usually submerged blocks of rock at its end that protect you by fending off  the fury of his assault. I should caution that this works best when the swell is coming in parallel to the shore or slightly from the south. Still, under many different conditions,  I’ve only seen the rock topped a few times, and that was at high tide with huge waves. Even in that case, if you were out there, there are cracks and protuberances you could jam yourself into and hold onto for dear life with a high probability of not being swept into the turbulent and icy waters. Please contact me if this theory is correct. I’d love to see the video.

This first picture is what the promontory looked like on another day at lowtide. As

you can see this promontory is an interesting intrusion into the ocean with a series of potential photographic perches that have an escalating scale of danger as you head seaward.  And here’s what it looked like that day looking landward from the spot I was shooting.

And finally here are a few pictures of what it was like that day looking

around from that spot. Next time I expect I’ll have to get soaked to get better pictures. Actually, I did get better pictures this time, but with the Flip video, and I have to edit the footage I took of a big set that rolled through so it is a small enough file to email. Soon. Enjoy. John

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