Sneaker Waves

Coast Watches: Twelve Meditations

Prior: Hearing the Waves Crack

December 29

There are these huge waves that come crashing on. I am sitting her eating breakfast — clear, clouds, sea grayish, but going to clear. The sea is relatively calm.

All night I heard the crashing — then the double-crashing — when a wave breaks twice, once before the shore, and then again on the rocks. But no wind or storm — and no moon to see them by.

But today it seems calm. Just little sea ripples. I eat my cereal, look up upon hearing a CRASH.

What? Spray all over in from of my view of the Rocky Creek road sign and trees between the two oceanfront houses. DOUBLE-CRASH.

I look out to sea. It’s become wide-wale corduroy. There are ridges in the ocean the length of the horizon, deep troughs which seem a mile long. Trenchers.

They move closer — quickly. Rising, rising, past where waves usually break at the oceanfront deck rail of the house below — breaking now at the rooftop!

Oh my gosh–a Sneaker wave. It comes on closer and closer, curling, curling, holding the crest till it seems to reach that deck rail 100 yards down below, then break-foams onto the rocks. The whole sea close in front of me is foamy!

And here comes the next one–right through the foam. Higher than the scrub trees below. Crashing sideways now toward the oceanfront left house, at their first-story roof level.

Another wave, coming in at chimney-level, cresting, cresting, cresting, so close I can see the thin translucent jade-green of the curl: Crash — Boom — Bash!

How can the breakers be so high, and not engulf these houses? A sliver of sun shines through the clouds, streaking the foam in front of me — “from sea to shining sea.”

I glance at the empty oceanfront lot to the left, a whole row of breakers there, high and distinct, like Hawaiin surf, lit by the sun, the back-spray gleaming in the air.

Suddenly it is over. Small corduroy wales. No noise. No curls. No dark teal-green furrows out there. It’s quiet. No spray higher than the houses’ rooftops. Only small crashes now and then, small piles of foam.

I resume eating breakfast. Now the sea is placid. Beautiful in the sunlight. I look far out. No ripples, no ridges. Now I must go.

Were there 7 sneaker waves? I had no time to count. It felt like only 5, prolonged over time. I probably missed 2 in the excitement.

It’s hypnotic, better than topping video- game scores, waiting for the highest wave, that Sneaker to crash in.

Sneaker waves that shudder the house, built of solid wood 150 yards away from the sea, embedded in cement against the basalt hillside.

Where do these sneaker waves start? And how? Are they from the wake of a giant ship? A sea-quake? A shift in the current? A windstorm out to sea? I must find out.

Next: Whales!

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