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Wednesday, February 20 , 2019, 6:55 pm | Mostly Cloudy 51º


Captain’s Log: Ebbing Waves Leave a Beachcomber’s Paradise

Storm surge churns up plenty of unique shells, driftwood and fascinating flotsam.

The magical combination of extreme high surf and a good early season storm system has handed us a family-fun-filled opportunity for adventure and treasures beyond the wildest imagination. The adventure is scouting around rocky promontories and tidepools, and inshore from reefs and kelp beds. The treasure is natural bounty from the sea — a beachcomber’s delight.

Capt. David Bacon (Ramona Lisa McFadyen photo)
There is danger in high surf, so be sure to check the weather and surf forecast and, above all, stay in safe areas where large waves will not sweep people off their feet. We want you all back afterward, safely in front of your computer and reading Noozhawk!

Huge waves, crashing with a sound like thunder and scouring the seafloor, combined with strong currents churning up the near-shore waters, deposit nature’s bounty along the beach. Pretty shells, driftwood and other fascinating flotsam comprise my silver lining to a storm cloud.

The very best beachcombing time is after a high tide, through the subsequent low tide period. Low tide is the safest time to explore around rocky points and outcroppings for seashells. Some of my own most treasured shells come from the Santa Barbara and Goleta beaches. Summerland and Carpinteria are also great spots. Carpinteria has a major reef zone where the surge of large swells moves a great number of shells for us to find. Perhaps the best local spots of all are just up the coast from Jalama Beach where rocky terrain begins.

Driftwood hunters should concentrate their explorations downcurrent from river and large creek mouths, where driftwood piles up on the beaches in great tangled piles as waves recede after high tides. The best waterways to look for are ones with considerable woods and brush upstream. We certainly suffered through enough fires this season to provide fascinating pieces of wood bobbing down our creeks and into the sea after a wet storm. The result will be lines of driftwood along the beaches at the high-water mark during the storm season.

Beachcombing can be a fun family outing or a chance for some peaceful solitude for an individual or a couple. Remember, early browsers get the best booty, so plan on getting out there as soon as possible after big waves and big rains. Bundle up and get there early. Never forget — even for a minute while chasing a shiny seashell — how potentially dangerous the sea can be. When high tide or big surf comes in, take care not to get trapped someplace where the big waves can reach you. Also be watchful for large waves. They can sweep dry ground and pull a fully grown person to sea.

Capt. David Bacon operates WaveWalker Charters and is president of SOFTIN Inc., a new nonprofit group providing seafaring opportunities for those in need.

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