Braving the big waves

January 15, 2004


The first big, macking northwest swell of the year hit this week,

giving us some pretty good-sized waves at our Surf City beaches. On

Monday, as the swell filled in, the size increased through the


The pier was a couple-feet- plus overhead, with some pretty nice

workable rights on the north side. The south side was working, too,


with both rights and lefts.

Down at the Cliffs, it was even bigger as the outside reef Box

Cars started to break. There were some 10-footers, but that shore

break inside was looking pretty difficult to get through, super

consistent with lots of drifting and pounding and a lot of close-outs

down at the north end.

Santa Cruz at the Lane was double-overhead-plus, and farther up

the coast, Mavericks hit 20- to 35-feet-plus, as the swell came

rolling down the coast. I'm sure that Todos Santos, the island off

Mexico, was booming with big-time surf too.

But the big story was closer to home, that sea mount pinnacle 100

miles straight out of Huntington -- the Cortez Bank, which has been

the talk of the big wave boys and photographers. Former Huntington

surfer Brad Gerlach, runner up to the world title a few years back,

and big wave extraordinaire Mike Parsons, were rumored to be heading

out by boat in search of some giant, 40- to 60-foot-plus monster surf


Those wide open ocean swells hit big time out there and produce

some of the largest waves in the world. Somebody might just ride an

80- or 100-footer this year -- that's huge! Locals Ryan and Timmy

Turner, known for their hardcore Indo trips, were heading out there

too, so we'll have to try to get the scoop on that big wave attack.

Over in Hawaii, they called off "the Eddie" on this swell, but

everyone chasing the XXL biggest wave awards were seen headed to the

outer reef, Jaws, to do some big time tow-ins in some macking surf.

Last year, Hawaiian Makua Rothman won the award with a huge wave

measured at 66 feet at Jaws. That's bigger than the Huntington Beach

Lifeguard Tower on the pier, plus the antenna.

Rothman also said he never looks back and concentrates on making

it. It would be pretty scary seeing a giant wall of water chasing

after you. Hopefully you make it in a life or death situation like

that, or be ready to take a severe beating by the wave's sheer power.

The United States Surfing Federation held its Topanga event in

some good 2- to 4-foot peeling rights off the point last Saturday and

Sunday. In the seniors division, Mike Flister made another final,

getting one of the longest waves of the contest, all the way across,

slashin' and bashin' to place second. Also getting some nice waves

was local Jeff Combs, who placed third overall.

That last storm that hit our local mountains had a lot of rain in

it, melting down snow and causing some road closures and mud slides

as well. They did get a few inches of snow when it got colder,

though. Local resorts are seeing about 1- to 2 1/2 base depths, with

machine-groomed hard pack surface.

Farther away, Mammoth Mountain is faring better, with an

incredible 10- to 12-foot base and tons of powder when the storm was


That's it for now, see ya.

* RICK FIGNETTI is an eight-time West Coast champion, has

announced the U.S. Open of Surfing the last nine years and has been

the KROQ-FM surfologist for the last 17 years, doing morning surf

reports. He owns a surf shop on Main Street. You can reach him at

(714) 536-1058.

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