“Myself and a few friends got together for a paddle down the coast last December. The plan was to start a Linda Mar beach in Pacifica and head down the coast to Grey Whale cove while exploring the rocky features on the way. The forecast swell for that day was about 4-5 ft with a larger 9ft swell coming in late that night. We discussed before launching that we may get some bigger than average waves rolling in ahead of the upcoming surge. However we were not expecting the extreme change in conditions that occurred while we were working our way down the coast. Going back to the Half Moon Bay buoy history for that day this is what we found: According to the HMB buoy:

Wv-Ht DPd APd
1:50pm 4.6 12 8.1
2:50pm 5.2 21 9.1

Note the 21sec period waves mixed in. These readings came a short while after our incident occurred, but we were there for the preview. Since the longer the period swell travels faster than the short they will arrive first and since the height of the swell was almost the same as the short period swell these would be hard to see coming also break in deeper water so that would explain how that first set seem to have come out of nowhere on the outside of our position. We paddled down the coast that day exploring many coves and features along the way. It was a normal day with very consistent sets of waves some bigger than the others but nothing more than an average day. As we neared Grey Whale cove our destination for the day we had paddled into the bay just north of it. This is an interesting area where you find constant waves reflecting off the wall of the cove and colliding with the on coming swell creating a zipper effect.

We have been in this area before under what seemed to be at the time larger conditions and found it a very exciting area. Everyone who went close in to this area had a solid roll. We had been in that cove for a while that day and had seen where the biggest sets would break and were staying outside of that area. I was caught totally off guard to what happened next. A wave up from what seemed to be out of nowhere appeared just behind me and caught me totally off guard. It knocked me over and picked Mark up and dragged him quite a ways into shore. Since that wave was much further out than all the waves that day and I had seen nothing break in that spot, I made the mistake of watching Mark rather than looking outside like I should have. Then I turned around and saw a monster wall up on the outside. If you notice the shot in the video where Cass is backing his 17ft boat over this wave and narrowly escaping, the face of the wave is at least a few feet longer than his boat. There was not enough time to turn into the wave so I ended up getting broadsided and sent screaming toward the rocky shore. All I could do was lay the boat on its side with the boat between myself and shore and side surf awaiting the collision with the rocks that I was sure to come. To my great relief the wave pushed me into a small cove and let go of me. At that point I had no idea if the next wave would come crashing over me or not. So I decided to jump out of the boat and scramble up the rocks and asses the situation. At that point I saw Tony paddling up, note that Tony’s hatch cover got blown off and he made it to the beach paddling a boat full of water. Mark got washed into the same cove after he had lost his boat to a large wave that had blown his spray skirt just outside the rocks.” Myself and Mark ended up getting trapped inside what was luckily for us the only spot in the large cove that did not have sheer cliffs. So we decided to climb our boats up about 800 ft to HWY 1 rather than risk getting stuck in another spot where we could not get out.

Sergey was also hit by the same wave but was out of my camera range. He ended up loosing his spray skirt to that wave and we have been impressed how he has done a great job building his skill level in the short time he has been paddling.
Bill Vonnegut

This is Sergey Yechikov’s account of what happened and I would like to share it: “As for the incident I believe that boat full of water worked as a sea anchor that prevented me to be washed ashore at the same spot as you guys. I did rolled back after a first set of huge waves but realized that I am flooded and can not make over breaking stuff due to instability. I tried to swim away from impact zone and empty the boat enough to scramble in. I almost did that but was knocked over by the second set. Then I kept swimming to the right side of the cove seemed to be more safe and eventually trying to empty the boat. I had 2 possible options in the mind in the case of failure – abandon the boat and swim toward Cass and Peter or let the wave wash me and the boat onto the same spot as you. But at that moment from what I saw I was not sure that we can hike out of the spot. Luckily I did not have to make such a decision since I put my foot onto some solid surface. Probably that was rather a top of the rock than a sea floor because later I was not able to reach it. It was enough to partially empty the boat and do re-entry and roll. Then I punched through another set of breaking waves and paddle out to safety in submarine mode. Peter tried to reach me but I sent him away as we were still in breaking zone. Then we left the zone we did T-rescue to dump all water out.” Best, Sergey. “This is a good reason why you should use a high quality white water skirt and have float bags in the hatches when paddling on the coast. I will leave it here as I have a video below that explains the whole incident very well”