Tsunami Chasing

by Janet Koed

Assessing the beach from the bluffs – Photo Courtesy of Sally Berry

My friend, Sally Berry, and I had plans to go beach hiking on Gaviota on Saturday and then I was awakened by a tsunami advisory. The wave came all the way from a volcanic eruption in Tonga. I knew to take the news seriously as it reminded me of the 1964 earthquake in Anchorage, Alaska. At that time, my family was camping on a beach in Baja. We were about 10 feet above sea level in our little cozy trailer. My brother, Mike, was more like 3 feet above, in a tent with a ham radio.  In the middle of the night, Mike came running through camp yelling, “A tsunami’s coming!” He is not an alarmist and, although he was a teenager, the adults believed him. Mom and Dad herded us to the jeep and headed up to the bluff top where they thought it was safe. 

Little Bluff Nook – Photo Courtesy of Janet Koed

As the sun came up and hours had passed, we returned to the campsite that was still intact. Dad took us down to the beach while mom and baby sister held down the fort. I had imagined a giant wave engulfing the entire bay but was surprised to see the tides advance and recede very quickly, leaving small flopping fish in their wake. I thought this might happen as the Tonga tsunami reached Alaska. 

Surfing family – Photo Courtesy of Janet Koed

Meanwhile, the tsunami advisory was lifted and I was back on track to hike the very low tide on one of my favorite Gaviota beaches. I had watched the surf video cameras and noticed the local waters transition from glassy-smooth to bumpy and disorganized and then back to smooth again. We would be fine. After a short pause, even the Rincon Classic surf contest was back on.

The green Gaviota grass meadow welcomed us and the clouds presented beautiful lighting. A few others had apparently assessed the situation as very fine. We were not disappointed. Low tide exposed rocks, reflections and opportunistic seabirds. A small family appeared with surfboards, boogie boards and big smiles.

Sally was so engrossed in taking pictures of the feathered ones, that I left her and headed out to the west on my own. I was mesmerized by the exposed rock formations and the tide pool scenes. Even the neighbors were out patrolling the bluff in their little vehicle that some small child was driving (watching out for us older adults no doubt).

Catching up with Janet – Photo Courtesy of Sally Berry

As we headed up the trail and back to our car, a lovely enigma approached with her surfboard underarm. As it turns out, this was one of those lucky encounters with a friend from the past. Maya was visiting from her home in the eastern Sierra. She was just a 20-something kid when I met her in the struggle to keep this sacred place from being developed into 72 mansions. Maya and Ariana, along with Kristin, Phil and Naples Coalition led the charge to County Board of Supervisors to oppose the development project. In case you don’t know, the up-zoning for this development was approved but the development has not materialized. Cattle still roam in this part of the coastal zone. 

Reunion with Maya

In parting, I want to remind readers that we can never take this beautiful Gaviota Coast for granted. Development permits still exist. Grading equipment is poised and waiting. There are lands to be protected and preserved. Stay tuned and join our efforts!

End of another beautiful day in Gaviota
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