In late August a Hurricane off Mexico sent giant waves to California. The surf spots that are open to the south-southeast swell angle were extra large to extra extra large. The morning the swell hit I ended up shooting at the Wedge, a surf spot in southern Newport Beach in Southern California. This was a historic swell and will be talked about for years and years and never forgotten by those lucky enough to experience it in person. These are some of my favorite images from that session, I hope you enjoy them.
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Big drop on one of the bigger waves that day. If you look close you will see this guy’s back foot is not on the board but is about two feet in the air.
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This guy had absolutely no fear and was really charging more than anyone else out that morning and he also had the skill to recover the drop. He was really close to going over the front of his board.
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After his recovery the surfer is now setting up or looking down the line to position himself to get barreled or to ride inside the tubing portion of the wave. This is one of the bigger better waves that came in this day!
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This is one of the better shaped left barrels of the day. Here the guy is coming out of one barrel and about to enter another before finally exiting and finishing his ride. Waves of this size and shape are really special for surfers since conditions like this only happen a few times a year in California.
This is something you have probably never seen before. This surfer paddled into the wave with his shortboard on top of a longboard. Once he caught the wave he jumped up on his longboard with his shortboard under his arm. Then at the bottom he stepped off onto his shortboard and pulled into a barrel. The surfer is a world-famous professional surfer from Hawaii.
Not a good place to slip off a surfboard. He seemed to be okay after this wave but that had to hurt.
Nice drawn out bottom turn on a nice clean left.
This surfer is a moment away from getting blasted off his board. This is whats known as straightening out where the rider goes straight as a last ditch effort to avoid getting hit by a wave. This is usually not a recommended course of action at spots like the Wedge since as in this case, he didn’t make it.
This is a lifeguard’s worst nightmare, huge waves and hundreds of tourists not paying any attention. The shoreline would be absolutely the worst choice to shoot from during the highest tide of the day and the biggest swell of the year.
During this swell at the Wedge the currents were so bad there were dozens of surfers that had to be rescued some of the lifeguards had to be rescued themselves by other lifeguards!
If you have a chance to photograph giant waves at the Wedge or any other spot in the world be very careful. Ask a lifeguard or law enforcement before getting close to the water or climbing onto a jetty or structure. Each and every time giant swell hits the coast I see people get their equipment soaked because they were standing in an unsafe spot and not paying attention.
If you have any questions or comments be sure to share ‘em in the comments section below.
Robert O’Toole is a Sigma Pro and has been a professional photographer for more than 20 years. As an accomplished instructor, Robert leads photography workshop tours across the US and internationally. For more info visit Robert’s web site at robertotoolephotography.com