Dateline California: Massive Hurricane Swell, Clueless News Man, Praise the Laird!

by Chris Dixon

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Late afternoon on August 26, the first waves from Category Five Hurricane Marie began sweeping into the beaches of Southern California. Surf meteorologists who predicted the biggest south swell in ten years, turned out to be spot on, as spots from Orange County to Malibu lit up with surf not seen since the last seriously El Niño-fired summer brought hurricanes Guillermo and Linda back in 1997.

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A High Resolution “Rapid Scan” image of Hurricane Marie from NOAA’s GOES 14 satellite.

Image, NOAA

On Wednesday night, a part-time Malibu resident and big wave surfer of some renown named Laird Hamilton rowed out on a standup paddleboard, took off on the biggest wave of the day and shot the Malibu pier – charging through the venerable, barnacle-encrusted pilings in a hell of a display. He also shared a beautiful, swooping rollercoaster ride with Joel Tudor, one of the best longboard surfers to ever live, for good measure.

This morning, Dual Hemisphere Media published a pretty damned amazing, YouTube Clip of the rides.

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Yet despite the holy visage of The Laird walking on water, Marie’s biggest gladiator spectacle went down today,  sixty miles to the south at The Wedge in Newport Beach. There, Marie’s swells were piled up by the massive Newport Harbor jetties into towering peaks – some pushing 30 feet. A huge crowd gathered, along with a particularly clueless news man for Los Angeles’ KTLA 5 named Eric Spillman, who is clearly astonished and clearly knows, well, not much about surfing. He has some gems, questioning why the surfer he’s interviewing isn’t wearing swim fins, and marveling at a surfboard that’s been “cut in two.” He asks another great question that I’ve actually always wondered about myself, ‘How does that happen, where your surfboard is cut in half but you’re okay?”

And like all of us, he marvels at a horrific, backsliding Wedge wipeout. “There’s a surfer, look at that ride. Oh my God, he fell down.”

Tragically too, on Tuesday afternoon, a surfer was pulled unconscious from Malibu’s raging waters. He later died.

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