Stormy Surf at Salt Creek Beach in Monarch Beach

We spent the 4th of July locally – of course we did! We live in an awesome area… people travel far and wide to spend their vacations here and as locals, we get to enjoy it everyday. The Sunday after the 4th I headed to the beach with some new friends I am getting to know; they were at our house the night before roasting ‘smores with their kids and as the evening wound down I said “Hey – we should do a beach day someday!” To which they said “We’re going to Salt Creek tomorrow; wanna join us?” “Yeah! We’re in!”

I packed up the kids the next day and as we were heading out the door, my wife shouted out “Watch out for the riptides – I read they are really strong right now; some storm or something!” I hadn’t heard anything about it but filed it away to check out when we got there.

If you’ve ever been to Salt Creek you know there is a decent walk down from the parking lot to the sand. Big wide open grassy expanses cascade down to the ocean, so the walk is nice… as we approached the beginning of the descent I could see the ocean and it was solid whitewash for a hundred+ yards out off of the shore. That didn’t bode well for a day in the water with the kids. I stopped them and asked them if they knew what that water meant and they lobbed a couple of decent answers my way… I let them know it meant large surf and probably a big undertow which translated into don’t-even-think-of-getting-into-that-water-until-Daddy-says-so-mmmm-k? The kids got it and we made our way down the hill.

When we hit the sand, the place was packed. Salt Creek is, after all, a great place to surf, bodysurf, boogieboard and is at the bottom of the Ritz-Carlton so you get all types and lots of ’em… we found our friends and my buddy came running up to me and said “Did you SEE the water??! Super gnarly today!” I said I had been checking it but hadn’t seen it up close yet… I was stoked to get in myself and go bodysurfing; I was feeling good, strong and ready for a paddle out.

We set up camp and I walked up to the edge of the sand and looked down a 4 foot drop to where the surf was aggressively carving away sand and running along the beach like a sideways river. Gnarly indeed. People were having fun taunting the waves, running back and jumping up the little sand cliff as the bigger waves pushed in. I watched the crowd and marveled at how no one seemed to be in trouble despite the very aggressive pull of the surf.

Setting up camp amongst the umbrella forest.

A little dude standing at the lower side of the sand cliff.

Looking north along the coast; crowds out in force!

Looking south towards the Ritz-Carlton and the Point at Salt Creek.

Looking north again, this time on the lower portion of sand.

I swam out into an endless set of waves that finally repelled me after about 25 minutes of duck diving 12 big waves… I got outside with my friend and told him I was out; too much energy for what was guaranteed to be an endless series of duck dives to get outside on the triple stacked sets… not for me.



This photo is really about the wave in the distance; you can see it stacking up. When I got out to that wave, I passed it only to find another endless set that was setting up and breaking relentlessly.


The lifeguards were out in force as well, which was a blessing to have so many available. Kudos to them for what they do. We lost one that day in Newport Beach; so sad. We prayed for his family and friends when we found out the next morning.




We walked down to the Point to check out Strands beach to see if the conditions for swimming for the kids (and Dads) were any better; not so much… I love the turnout of the people though…

This is a photo looking back to where we were sitting on Salt Creek. That’s the Monarch Bay neighborhood in the background.

Follow me for a second here. I’m standing in the water with my back to the ocean (not in this photo; in the story); a man had washed up 45 seconds earlier crying and clutching his leg saying it wouldn’t move; he couldn’t stand. Four of us crowded around him quickly and three (not me) grabbed him and lifted him up onto the sand ledge. He had clearly broken something near his ankle; lifeguards were on it within seconds. I was watching him from below when my friend called out “Behind you!”

I spun around and saw a good size thick wave about ten feet away so I did what I thought appropriate – I judged it, ran right at it, and dove through nicely… easy breezy… as it whipped and washed me around I looked back at the sand lip and saw people scrambling around spitting out sand, shaking out bags, picking up fallen umbrellas… I laughed… silly people… it’s just water… and swam/walked/scrambled to the wall and took a look at how far that wave had crashed into the crowd.

It went far.

It went to my. CAMERA BAG!


I hopped up and sped over to my bag (it’s a backpack, really, nothing fancy). It was soaked. My chair had been pushed back another 15 feet or so and I looked around and that wave had CLEARED out that space… the photo above is me shooting back towards the lip once people picked up a bit… the man with the broken something or other had been rudely washed back as well but was safe…

Here are the paramedics & lifeguards on scene taking care of Mr. Broken Leg. They carted him off; may he heal quickly.


Thanks for reading!

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