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Was This The Best Hurricane Swell To Ever Hit California?
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Was This The Best Hurricane Swell To Ever Hit California?

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West coast hurricane swells are often total duds. Too steep. Too south. Too far away.
Not hurricane Marie.
Marie, which formed on August 22, 2014, would end up becoming the seventh-most intense Pacific hurricane on record, and it was at its strongest — a Cat 5 with 160 mph winds — while directly in Southern California’s swell window. Not only that, but the peak of Marie’s energy arrived in tandem with a high-pressure system, resulting in a warm, glassy and huge day of waves, the likes of which we haven’t seen since. The Wedge was 20-foot. Newport Point looked like Pipeline. Malibu was perfect. The swell was so large that even winter spots like Sandspit in Santa Barbara had rare moments of glory.
This weekend marks the sixth anniversary of Marie’s epic swell, so we figure it’s a fitting time to revisit some of the best images from the best hurricane swell in at least the last decade.
Captions and photos by Peter Taras, Ryan “Chachi” Craig, and Jimmy “Jimmicane” Wilson

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{“@context”:”http://schema.org”,”@type”:”ImageGallery”,”description”:” West coast hurricane swells are often total duds. Too steep. Too south. Too far away….”,”image”:[{“@type”:”ImageObject”,”datePublished”:”2020-08-18T14:44:45-07:00″,”caption”:””I went to Balboa Pier at 5am,” says Peter Taras. “It was still pitch dark. As the sun rose you could see black lines of swell marching from Cylinders down to the pier. It looked like mini Teahupo’o and there was no way you could paddle into some of them.” Unidentified, proving Taras’ point. “,”url”:”https://i2.wp.com/www.surfer.com/wp-content/uploads/2020/08/2Q3Z5038.jpg?resize=1200%2C1200&ssl=1″,”width”:”1200″,”height”:”1200″},{“@type”:”ImageObject”,”datePublished”:”2020-08-18T14:44:45-07:00″,”caption”:””I remember Tuesday night and there was just this crazy fog in the air,” says Taras. “But it wasn’t fog, it was just coastal mist from there being so much salt in the air. I’ve only seen that a couple times on massive swells here in California.” “,”url”:”https://i0.wp.com/www.surfer.com/wp-content/uploads/2020/08/IMG_3441.jpg?resize=1200%2C1200&ssl=1″,”width”:”1200″,”height”:”1200″},{“@type”:”ImageObject”,”datePublished”:”2020-08-18T14:44:45-07:00″,”caption”:””It was two hours before my girlfriend’s birthday dinner when Spencer Pirdy texted me to let me know that Newport Point was likely to look like Pipeline in the morning,” recalls Ryan “Chachi” Craig. “To the disappointment of my girlfriend, I told her that I’d have to leave for Southern California after dinner. I arrived at Newport Point just before sunrise, exhausted. With sea spray lingering in the air, the beach was already crowded with surfers taking a glimpse at the swell. It seemed like the whole world got the memo — many Hawaiian surfers had flown over and all the Southern California surfing contingent was there.””,”url”:”https://i1.wp.com/www.surfer.com/wp-content/uploads/2020/08/newport-point_4D5A4670_140827_CRAIG.jpg?resize=1200%2C1200&ssl=1″,”width”:”1200″,”height”:”1200″},{“@type”:”ImageObject”,”datePublished”:”2020-08-18T14:44:45-07:00″,”caption”:””With haze blanketing the coast, I eventually decided to go for a swim. It was my first serious swim in almost 9 months and I had to wear a large knee brace to protect my still vulnerable knee after ACL surgery,” remembers Chachi. “On the first real set, about 10 minutes into my swim, I got caught inside. The second wave landed square on my head and blew my water housing out of my hand. It was back to shooting land from there.””,”url”:”https://i0.wp.com/www.surfer.com/wp-content/uploads/2020/08/newport-point_AZ4C4362-2_140827_CRAIG.jpg?resize=1200%2C1200&ssl=1″,”width”:”1200″,”height”:”1200″},{“@type”:”ImageObject”,”datePublished”:”2020-08-18T14:44:45-07:00″,”caption”:””Mason Ho and Joe Alani were getting these crazy, against-the-grain rights,” says Taras. “In a genius chess match, I think everyone was so focused on getting long lefts that those two got the lion’s share of rights that morning.” “,”url”:”https://i1.wp.com/www.surfer.com/wp-content/uploads/2020/08/2Q3Z4504.jpg?resize=1200%2C1200&ssl=1″,”width”:”1200″,”height”:”1200″},{“@type”:”ImageObject”,”datePublished”:”2020-08-18T14:44:46-07:00″,”caption”:””[Photographer] Todd Glaser almost drowned this session,” recalls Taras. “I actually suited up and was on the beach with my housing, and right before I jumped in the water the horizon just went black. I had this idea to paddle out at the Balboa pier and drift down. And right then these huge lines marched down the beach. Just huge. They caught everyone inside. That set would have killed me.””,”url”:”https://i2.wp.com/www.surfer.com/wp-content/uploads/2020/08/2Q3Z4836.jpg?resize=1200%2C1200&ssl=1″,”width”:”1200″,”height”:”1200″},{“@type”:”ImageObject”,”datePublished”:”2020-08-18T14:44:46-07:00″,”caption”:””Overall, it’s [chasing a west coast hurricane] a bit of a novelty because there aren’t many spots that hold it and those will all be a zoo,” says photographer Jimmicane, who shot the image above. “It’s nothing like chasing a hurricane on the east coast where you have a ton of variables and different spots turn on for every different storm.””,”url”:”https://i1.wp.com/www.surfer.com/wp-content/uploads/2020/08/JW14CA5D01470-scaled.jpg?resize=1200%2C1200&ssl=1″,”width”:”1200″,”height”:”1200″},{“@type”:”ImageObject”,”datePublished”:”2020-08-18T14:44:46-07:00″,”caption”:””I think it had been so long since there had been a swell that big come in at that angle,” says Jimmicane, who snapped this shot of Taylor Knox. “A lot of people were clued in on where to go but a lot of people weren’t. That probably won’t be the case anymore with things like this article [laughs]. The next time it happens everyone will be on it.” “,”url”:”https://i2.wp.com/www.surfer.com/wp-content/uploads/2020/08/JW14CA1D02564-scaled.jpg?resize=1200%2C1200&ssl=1″,”width”:”1200″,”height”:”1200″},{“@type”:”ImageObject”,”datePublished”:”2020-08-18T14:44:46-07:00″,”caption”:””With these hurricane swells, you’re getting the same thing every time but with slight variations of angle, and a large variation on size and consistency,” says Jimmicane. “So for this one, I decided to document from a different perspective.””,”url”:”https://i2.wp.com/www.surfer.com/wp-content/uploads/2020/08/A0A9263-scaled.jpg?resize=1200%2C1200&ssl=1″,”width”:”1200″,”height”:”1200″},{“@type”:”ImageObject”,”datePublished”:”2020-08-18T14:44:46-07:00″,”caption”:””Who knows when Newport will look like this again?” says Jimmicane. “You could say Oliver Kurtz and Jamie O’Brien’s waves that day rivaled decent Pipeline.””,”url”:”https://i0.wp.com/www.surfer.com/wp-content/uploads/2020/08/JW14CA5D01371-scaled.jpg?resize=1200%2C1200&ssl=1″,”width”:”1200″,”height”:”1200″}]}
Photo Credit: Photo: TarasNewport Point”I went to Balboa Pier at 5am,” says Peter Taras. “It was still pitch dark. As the sun rose you could see black lines of swell marching from Cylinders down to the pier. It looked like mini Teahupo’o and there was no way you could paddle into some of them.” Unidentified, proving Taras’ point. Photo Credit: Photo: TarasOceanside”I remember Tuesday night and there was just this crazy fog in the air,” says Taras. “But it wasn’t fog, it was just coastal mist from there being so much salt in the air. I’ve only seen that a couple times on massive swells here in California.” Photo Credit: Photo: Ryan CraigNewport Point”It was two hours before my girlfriend’s birthday dinner when Spencer Pirdy texted me to let me know that Newport Point was likely to look like Pipeline in the morning,” recalls Ryan “Chachi” Craig. “To the disappointment of my girlfriend, I told her that I’d have to leave for Southern California after dinner. I arrived at Newport Point just before sunrise, exhausted. With sea spray lingering in the air, the beach was already crowded with surfers taking a glimpse at the swell. It seemed like the whole world got the memo — many Hawaiian surfers had flown over and all the Southern California surfing contingent was there.”
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Photo Credit: Photo: Ryan CraigNewport Point”With haze blanketing the coast, I eventually decided to go for a swim. It was my first serious swim in almost 9 months and I had to wear a large knee brace to protect my still vulnerable knee after ACL surgery,” remembers Chachi. “On the first real set, about 10 minutes into my swim, I got caught inside. The second wave landed square on my head and blew my water housing out of my hand. It was back to shooting land from there.”Photo Credit: Photo: TarasNewport Point”Mason Ho and Joe Alani were getting these crazy, against-the-grain rights,” says Taras. “In a genius chess match, I think everyone was so focused on getting long lefts that those two got the lion’s share of rights that morning.” Photo Credit: Photo: TarasNewport Point”[Photographer] Todd Glaser almost drowned this session,” recalls Taras. “I actually suited up and was on the beach with my housing, and right before I jumped in the water the horizon just went black. I had this idea to paddle out at the Balboa pier and drift down. And right then these huge lines marched down the beach. Just huge. They caught everyone inside. That set would have killed me.”
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Photo Credit: Photo: JimmicaneMalibu”Overall, it’s [chasing a west coast hurricane] a bit of a novelty because there aren’t many spots that hold it and those will all be a zoo,” says photographer Jimmicane, who shot the image above. “It’s nothing like chasing a hurricane on the east coast where you have a ton of variables and different spots turn on for every different storm.”Photo Credit: Photo: JimmicaneSan Diego”I think it had been so long since there had been a swell that big come in at that angle,” says Jimmicane, who snapped this shot of Taylor Knox. “A lot of people were clued in on where to go but a lot of people weren’t. That probably won’t be the case anymore with things like this article [laughs]. The next time it happens everyone will be on it.” Photo Credit: Photo: JimmicaneNewport Point”With these hurricane swells, you’re getting the same thing every time but with slight variations of angle, and a large variation on size and consistency,” says Jimmicane. “So for this one, I decided to document from a different perspective.”
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Photo Credit: Photo: JimmicaneNewport Beach”Who knows when Newport will look like this again?” says Jimmicane. “You could say Oliver Kurtz and Jamie O’Brien’s waves that day rivaled decent Pipeline.”

Hurricane Mariemalibunewport beach

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