Big Wednesday: Redondo Breakwall, El Segundo Jetty proves it’s not a myth
by Kevin Cody
Redondo Breakwall surfer Chris Rodriguez planned to go by boat from King Harbor to surf Indicator in Palos Verdes last Wednesday morning. He had a new, 7-foot-6 Pat Ryan board he wanted to test in big waves and the Breakwater didn’t look big. But while he was screwing in the fins on his new board, his boat left without him.
So, mid morning, with encouragement from fellow big wave charger Jeremy Griffin, Rodriguez paddled out at Breakwall.
Photos by Robert Sheer (spiritshadows.net)
“I saw Derek Levy and Randy Meistrell sitting way outside, wondering what they were doing. And then we saw a set about to break even further out. I didn’t want to go for it, but I was in position and knew if I didn’t go, Derek or Randy would,” Rodriguez recalled.
In the back of every local surfer’s mind that day was the South Bay Boardriders Big Wave Challenge, which Levy won last year. The prize money and bragging rights go to the surfer who catches the winter’s biggest wave, based on photographs submitted for the contest. The contest area is bounded on the north by El Segundo and the south by Indicator.
While Rodriguez was maneuvering around Levy and Meistrell, photographer Robert Sheer was shooting from the beach.
Photos by Mike Balzer
Sheer specializes in time-lapse, art photography.
“I had never taken a photo at the Breakwall. But I live on the Esplanade, and had some time to kill before I had to pick up my son at Tolito Elementary. So I bicycled down,” he said.
He was there for only 10 minutes and photographed only one wave that day.
It was the wave Rodriguez knew he had to take if he didn’t want to give it to Levy or Meistrell.
Photos by Brad Jacobson (CivicCouch.com)
“I kind of chip shotted into it and then the wave did the Niagara Falls thing. I was racing to stay ahead of the lip, hoping I could make a bottom turn and pull in,” Rodriguez recalled.
Sheer’s photos show Rodriquez made the bottom turn, but then the wave exploded behind him and he straightens out toward the beach. The wave appears to be 20- to 30-foot high, which almost certainly makes Rodriguez and Sheer contenders for the 2018 Big Wave Challenge award.
After Sheer bicycled off to pick up his son, Rodriguez went back out along the Breakwall and slipped.
“I fell on my ass and slithered down the rock into the water,” he said.
Then his luck took another turn for the worse.
“I had so much adrenaline running through me after slipping that I paddled into the next big wave,” he said.
Photos taken by veteran surf photographer Mike Balzer, show that wave to be as big, or bigger than the wave Sheer photographed. But it won’t be entered in the Big Wave Challenge, which requires the surfer to stay on the board.
The lip catches up with Rodriguez before he reaches the bottom and slingshots him into the wall of the wave.
“When my head hit the water I heard a bonging sound and then my whole body went stiff. I told myself, ‘You need to wake up.’ So I shook myself and let the wave drag me ashore,” he said.
Hammered at Hammerland
That same Big Wednesday, at the north end of the Big Wave Challenge contest zone, pro surfer Oliver Kurtz had a similarly scary experience. Hammerland was as big as the Breakwall, but cleaner and barreling. Only a few surfers were out, among them El Segundo’s Matt Mohagen (2011 Big Wave Challenge winner), Santa Cruz’s Nic Lamb (2016 Titans of Mavericks winner) and Los Angeles County Lifeguard Tito Bourget).
In 2014, Kurtz, a Florida native, was pictured on the cover of Surfer Magazine, surfing Hurricane Marie as it bashed Southern California.
On his Instagram last week, under a photo showing him on the beach at the El Segundo Jetty, looking out at a 30-foot face breaking left and right, the Rockstar-sponsored surfer wrote, “Very very humbled by the Pacific Ocean today. I was in a particularly bad situation that could have sent me to Davy Jones Locker for good. Pretty weird. This could have been my last surf photo, ever. Stay safe out there friends. This swell is no joke.
The Big Wednesday Myth: it’s not a myth
Even before the 1978 movie “Big Wednesday,” Big Wednesday had its place in South Bay surf lore. Hermosa Beach surfer and UC Irvine math professor Neil Gretsky, not a person prone to fuzzy logic, would rattle off Big Wednesday dates, going back to the 1960s, to prove big surf on Wednesday is a statistically supported phenomenon. Gretsky passed away in 2015, but his analysis received more confirming data last Wednesday, Jan. 9, the biggest day of the 2018-19 winter. ER
by Kevin Cody
Kevin is the publisher of Easy Reader and Beach. Share your news tips. 310 372-4611 ext. 110 or kevin[at]easyreadernews[dot]com