Big swell awakens the Cove


When La Jolla surfers look back on 2007, they won’t think of the 364 days out of the year when La Jolla Cove was nothing more than a calm, picturesque setting for snorkelers and swimmers.

They will remember Dec. 5, the day the sleeping giant awoke.

The Cove can hardly be considered a surf spot for most of the year. With its rock bottom more than 50 feet below the surface, the water is too deep to create waves even on days when nearby spots are lighting up with good-sized surf. It takes a truly monumental swell to tap the potential of the storied deep-water break.

Such a swell started showing itself in La Jolla on Tuesday, Dec. 4. Generated by a big, powerful storm that started out in the North Pacific Ocean to the north of Hawaii and eventually marched straight over the Pacific Northwest and Canada, the swell was known by surf forecasters to be on its way for several days before it actually arrived. By the end of the previous week, surfers were circling Wednesday the 5th as a possibly historic day.

The forecasts all came true. By Tuesday afternoon, surfers were enjoying clean, head-high surf all around San Diego County. But on Wednesday morning, the scene had changed. The swell was pushing in with such massive force that it simply overwhelmed most surf spots.

WindanSea Beach, a reef break that can typically handle large swells while still producing well-formed waves, was a complete washout. Big walls of water were crashing down far outside the typical WindanSea lineup, then churning to the beach in frothing masses of whitewater, completely unrideable.

At Black’s Beach, also known for producing quality waves even in very big surf, the scene was similar. Crowds were way down from usual, as the big swell was simply overwhelming the spot, producing surf that was much more closed-out than the typical well-formed waves at Black’s.

The only real quality surf to be had in La Jolla was at the place that usually isn’t even breaking: the Cove.Hundreds of surfers bobbed in the water as giant, perfectly formed left-breaking waves wrapped their way around the point and into the Cove. Veteran La Jolla surfer and surfboard shaper Tim Bessell watched the surf at the Cove on Wednesday, and said it ranked with some of the biggest days ever at the spot.

“It was the biggest surf I’ve seen in a long time,” Bessell said. “I was just watching the Cove, and it was amazing.”

It wasn’t just surfers enjoying the spectacle. Roads into La Jolla were jammed and hundreds of spectators watched from the cliffs over the Cove.

“I’ve been hearing about these waves coming in on the news for a few days, so I wanted to come down and see for myself,” said Erin Dodson of San Diego. “(The waves) are amazing, absolutely beautiful. I’ve never seen anything like it in California.”