• The Blowhole
  • I would have been going crazy over this color... - maxxsmart
  • The color, light, and rain? here is amazing. - Jared Ropelato

Playing Footsie with the Devil

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Taken at Panther / Hole in the Wall Beach, near Davenport and Santa Cruz.

Spent the afternoon as usual: peering out the window to check on conditions down out the coast. Since I had missed the fantastic sunset on Friday, I was especially antsy to get some shooting in, so when I saw some clouds building on the horizon, I hopped in the car and zoomed away down to the beach!

After some close calls at Four Mile and Laguna Creek where I almost stopped to shoot, I ended up at my old standby: Panther / Hole in the Wall Beach

Down at the shore I was immediately impressed by the massive waves, which were bigger than I'd ever seen them at this beach. (And if that doesn't foreshadow the events to come this evening, I don't know what would.)

For those who've never been there, to get to Hole in the Wall Beach, you have to go through a huge rock arch, which you can see here. All the storms here recently have eroded a ton of sand out of the floor of the arch, so the water comes up a lot higher than it did a few months ago. Just getting through the arch to Hole in the Wall was a little ridiculous. I had to wait for a wave to roll back into the ocean, then sprint through the arch and climb up some rocks before the next big wave came crashing and splashing through the opening. Then when that one would roll back, I jumped down from my perch and sprinted along the cliff edge up to dry sand. Easy peasy. Barely got my feet wet.

Kept on cruising down to the south end of the beach, past Jim P's pet rocks, and up onto the sweet-as shelves at the end of the beach.

Now, did I mention that the waves were huge? I originally intended to shoot the Devil's Bathtub (photo down below), but hell man, the waves were creaming that thing into oblivion, and more water was shooting out of the blowhole like a cannon (you can see where the blowhole is in the note on the photo above). So I was like, eff that! and skittered away to figure out something else to shoot.

But since this big old cleft was right there too and also pointed in the same direction as the Bathtub, it was an easy second choice. But frick. I have never seen water come up so high in this thing. It was fully exploding out of the cleft at times. But the light was golden, so I shielded my camera from the worst blasts and kept on snapping the shutter.

Now right around this time it started raining a little bit and the wind picked up. Oh, sweet. Humongous waves aren't enough, it's gotta start raining and blowing wind too? Then the rain came down harder and by golly, it even started to hail. That's right: Hail. At a beach in California.

Eff this ess! I shouted and ran around the corner to hide behind some cliffs. Shot some quick video and after a few minutes the rain slacked off, so I zipped back out the cleft where the passing thunderstorms were turning whole rainbows' worth of color.

I stood there thinking, "oh my, what a wonderful moment to take a photo," so I grabbed this shot, and the outtake down below, and about 50 more just like it.

Then it started to rain again. Well poop. My cleaning cloth was soaking wet, so I packed all my gear up and walked about 50 feet back towards the car. Then it stopped raining, the clouds opened up a little bit, and these killer waves came pounding in over Jim's pet rocks. The documentarian inside of me beat up the "let's go home" wimpy nerd inside of me, so I unpacked all my gear and snagged a shot of the mountainous waves. See that photo down below.

But then the light was going, going, gone, and I decided to do the same, so I hustled back up the beach to the arch. But wait a minute, what the eff? These waves are even huger than before! And they're going right through the arch! How the crap am I supposed to get through there???

I figured that with careful timing and careful scrambling it should be doable. So I got on some rocks and watched the first wave roll through. As it receded I ran to the next set of rocks. Ok, so far so good. After the next wave I ran to the next set of rocks and was just climbing up them when Boom. The end. Do not pass go. Do not collect $200.

A rogue wave mashed into me and lifted me off the rocks like I was a rag doll. Then I was down in the water, 100% percent submerged, getting bashed into rocks as the wave pushed me up the beach and slammed me against the cliff. Ouch. Some people might find this a little strange, but my first thought while I was floundering around in the whirling ocean was not "Oh holy hell I am screwed," but rather, "Oh holy hell, my camera gear is screwed." I'm sure you flickrites understand fully. :)

But a wave can only go so high, thank goodness, so eventually I emerged at the top of the beach, soaked and sputtering. But hell, I still had to get through the arch! Luckily my second attempt was much more fortuitous, though I still had a number of close calls where I was clinging onto the rocks with all my might so as not to get swept off. At one point I was standing on some rocks four feet above the floor of the arch, and a wave came swirling up around my knees. That meant the water was a good 5 and a half feet above the floor of the arch. And I had to go through that!

"F#ck you, ocean!" I think were my exact words at this point. I waited a few more minutes and luckily a smaller cycle of waves came through and I was able to leap down and sprint through the arch without getting mauled by another tiger of a wave.

Phew! Then I just squished back to my jeep to assess the damage.

Final score: Ocean - 1. ipod - 0. Phone - 0. Me - bloody knees, but at least a few keeper shots. Not sure who won that round . . . camera survived intact though, so I'm thinking I win by TKO?



View more of my work at my website: www.joshuacripps.com

More stories, tips, tricks, and how-to's on my blog: www.joshuacripps.com/blog

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milophoto, hillsee, [ o g u h ], and 54 other people added this photo to their favorites.

View 20 more comments

  1. Joshua Cripps 61 months ago | reply

    Haha. Brave? I don't know about that! Stupid and lucky? Maybe!

  2. Jared Ropelato 61 months ago | reply

    Great story, great images, fun video. This was way entertaining. Nice work; all the way around.

  3. Jay Tankersley Photography 61 months ago | reply

    gorgeous shot. wow, what a crazy adventure. this is an awesome beach. ive been through the hole a few times and i have thought about going through it when the tide is high but the fear of trying to return after dark with possibly even higher tides kept me away. how did your camera gear survive the swim?

  4. Tommaso Renzi 61 months ago | reply

    All is perfect in this shot, the hole is fantastic!
    I had a similar experience some weeks ago, i fall down into a waterfall, but the ocean is MORE dangerous, luckily my camera survive...

  5. Joshua Cripps 61 months ago | reply

    @Jared: glad my misfortunes are entertaining for others :)

    @Jay: camera gear survived fine, amazingly. I had my backpack zipped up nice and tight and I think this must have created an air pocket inside the bag which help keep the water out to some extent. Really my tripod took the worst beating: it was all full of sand and crud. But after a good cleaning it's working like new!

    @Tommy: glad you and your gear survived, man!

  6. wesome 61 months ago | reply

    This is a truly inspiring image. But your monologue is a bit too Chaybertesque (LOL).

  7. Joshua Cripps 61 months ago | reply

    Adam, I will take your Chaybertesque comment as a compliment. Brian's stories crack me up. For that matter, I will also take your compliment as a compliment. Thanks!

  8. copeg 61 months ago | reply

    Nice perspective. I love that line leading out and the sun just biting the horizon

  9. Dante Laurini Jr 61 months ago | reply

    Man, we make some foolish things to get a nice image!
    Today I almost crashed my car, afraid I'd miss the 15 magical minutes!

  10. chaybert (Brian Rueb) 61 months ago | reply

    HAHAH you won. Te ocean ddin't even take a filter from you...well played!

  11. Jesse Bissette 60 months ago | reply

    Beautiful shot, the composition is perfect!

  12. satosphere 60 months ago | reply

    I was just at Panther beach/Hole-in-the-wall beach today.
    Luckily, it was the lowest tide at sunset, so I was able to get through the 'hole' ok.
    I came through the JimP's Pet rocks, but I couldn't figure out how to scale the 6 ft slippery wall with camera gear and everything. So I just ended up shooting those rocks with a bad sunset.
    Is there a shortcut or something to get to the crack?

  13. Hugh Deck 60 months ago | reply

    As a recent newcomer to shooting seascapes I have to say that I'm a bit of a pansy with what I'll attempt. Even if I survived a rogue wave I think I'd die by my wife's hands if she ever found out I'd taken a risk like that for a photo.

    I quite like this photo - the tiny sunburst is the clincher for me, and there's a lot of nice detail in the rocks. Sure, more definition in the surge of whitewater would be nice, but that's why we always end up going back, isn't it?

  14. Chris Gin 59 months ago | reply

    Brilliant shot and even better story!

  15. Sam ♑ 52 months ago | reply

    Please add your great Photo to the Group !

    Landscape Photographs - Post 1, Award 1

  16. Pipall 50 months ago | reply

    Awesome Catch! Really looks like a storm brewing from the video. Totally worth getting drenched for though!

  17. D&C Photography2011 49 months ago | reply

    You take amazing photos. I just got my first SLR camera. I hope to be half as good as you one day!

  18. New Yorkled 35 months ago | reply


    Apple-Icon Please Join us at New Yorkled State of Mind
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