“Break to the degree that it has?” he said. “God, I never would have been able to predict this at all.”
Northern California surf spots are firing like crazy this winter, with beaches and reefs serving up a seemingly endless supply of pristine waves, from Big Sur to Santa Cruz, and along the Sonoma Coast and beyond.
Anyone in Northern California who has been near the Pacific Ocean in the last month knows that the surf is pumping from swell-after-swell-after-swell.
“It's been a long time since I've seen glassy, perfect big swells like this with no wind,” said Shawn Rhodes, a longtime Northern California surfer and owner of Nor Cal Surf Shop in Pacifica. “You never get it.”
At Mavericks, the waves rise as tall as apartment buildings and break so violently they can snap a surfboard like a toothpick. The break is only surfable under the right conditions; some years the right combination of swell, wind, and weather never materialize.
This year it did. Bianca Valenti, a San Francisco-based big wave surfer, says she paddled out to Mavericks nearly a dozen times in December and almost every single day of 2021 to date.
“It's been an epic run,” she said. “Mind-blowing. This is the best winter that I can remember, ever.”
The conditions were so good at Mavericks on Dec. 8 — big waves, sunshine, no wind — that Surfline dubbed it the “day of days.” Grant Washburn, who’s kept a daily journal of conditions at the spot for nearly three decades, told the surf-forecasting and news website it was the “best dawn-to-dusk paddle day ever at Mav's, ever.”
Valenti says the waves have been huge and perfect and the conditions drew dozens of surfers and a gallery of photographers.
“Whenever you would kick out of a wave, the whole group erupted,” she said. “The closest thing to a contest or a party since the pandemic began. Everyone was thrilled, it felt so good.”
On Jan. 8, the swell was even larger, the waves faster, cresting higher than 50 feet.
“Every time a wave broke, it was like hearing a nuclear weapon explode,” Valenti said. At other times, a monster wave would roll in and “the whole horizon would just go black — you start paddling as fast as you can towards the boats and pray you don’t get caught.”