A fairly large swell was impacting the California coast on this day, and I had the day off while stuck on San Nicolas Island. The weather was a little chilly and windy, but it was bright and sunny. The highest surf would be on the western end of the island, at “Rock Crusher” beach, so I hopped onto my rental bike and began the six-mile ride from Nicktown. There are no Taco Johns or Del Tacos along the route, so I had some water and pistachio nuts in my backpack/camera bag. The first part of the ride is uphill from about 450 feet above sea level at Nicktown to 910 feet at the top of the island (Jackson Hill). From there it is mostly down hill to the west coast. Of course, I have to get back the same way, so the dreaded uphill bike ride back from the coast looms.
There is a weather station buoy about 30 miles WNW of San Nicolas Island, and it was indicating an average wave height of about 13 feet during the morning. I was crossing my fingers that the waves and swell would persist into the afternoon. Wave heights above 15 feet in the “outer waters” off of Southern California are rather rare, and I was looking forward to observing the ocean energy against the land. (As it turned out, that buoy recorded wave heights averaging 14.4 feet at 1:50 p.m., so I was out there during one of the peaks of the event! After 2 p.m., the wave heights decreased steadily, to 10 feet around sunset and 8 feet at midnight.)
While coasting down towards the beach, I could see some large waves breaking well offshore, perhaps half a mile west of the shoreline. Apparently there are some shallows out there that dissipate the wave energy somewhat. Dang. Still, when I reached the rocky edge of the coast, it was clear that the water was quite agitated! I split some time between the long lens and the wide angle, from one rocky outcrop to another. It was close to low tide, which I think helped a bit to allow me to wander out closer to the crashing waves.
I spent a couple of hours and took about 300 photographs. The waves did not disappoint at all, and I managed to stay dry. At 3 p.m. I had to start my bike “walk” back up the hill so I would be back before sunset. It would be nice to have a vehicle so I could be out at Rock Crusher around sunset. Maybe someday they will give the weather observer a car to get around out here.