A Ghoulish Day at "Ghost Tree" Pebble Beach, Northern Cal. MARCH 9, 2005
PHOTOS AND STORY BY WAYNE KELLY (photos copyrighted!)
Ghost Tree awakens...... Last night I heard the outside buoys reading 26 ft 20 seconds , and I knew it was on. By midnight my windows were rattling and the surf sounded like a fleet of jumbo-jets taking off. Don Curry and Ed Guzman were out of the harbor by 8AM, and the fog was still hanging heavy. These guys are hardcore, because by the time I got to Peskys at 9AM they were already riding waves. About 10:30, after being visibly frustrated with his few previous rides, Curry gets pulled into at least a 50 foot faced wave and got completely barreled and spit out. The first shot shown here was his bottom turn into that barrel, in which I missed the rest due to sheer awe. Don was the only guy going all the way to the bottom, speeding up, and making it. The high-line was the only way to make it for everyone else. Local knowledge seemed to pay off for him, as well as having balls of steel.
By the afternoon, word was out and tow-teams from Santa Cruz were posting up. Noah Johnson from Hawaii showed up with Skindog, who also brought another buddy, Australian Justin Allport. Everyone scored some bombs. The heaviest moment was when Tyler Smith gets towed into the biggest wave I have ever seen (pictured near bottom), goes straight, and gets blown to "Smithereens". His brother, Russel Smith, goes in on the ski to pick up his visibly shaken brother, mistimed the next wave, and gets rolled by a solid 20 footer while riding on the ski. The jetski flipped over and got washed to the inside. These guys kept getting sucked back under by the turbulence, and then getting sucked back down again. Tyler had pulled his shoulder out, and was in obvious pain. Amazingly other skis saw what happened and rescued them. Luckily they got the ski started up and got out of the zone. It was heavy.
When I thought it couldn't get any more intense, Australian Justen Allport gets his foot stuck in the strap while getting spit out of an "inside" tractor-trailor sized barrel, and snaps his leg in 4 places. The first-hand reports I got said that a bone was sticking out of the side of his wetsuit leg. They rushed him to the Monterey Peninsula hospital, thanks to the aid of local surfers James Roberts and Auspet Jordan. Today they were adding a steel rod to Justins leg. Roomer has it that Skindog brought him a chicken-leg and snapped it for the ailing aussie bedside. The last Ghost tree incident: Adam Repogles ski dies on the way back to the harbor, and barely makes it back to the launch, in howling winds and 20 foot++ seas. How much commitment does it take for this place?
Some other Santa Cruz pros showed up to tow, like Matt Rockhold and Homer Hernard, and they said "no way". After witnessing what happened, would any sane person throw the dice? I did the math, and there was almost a 20% injury rate out there with 2 injuries. Whats the chance of death? Will there be ghost sightings on the waves too?
INSIDE INFORMATION ON THE SPOT "GHOST TREE" aka. 18th hole, Peskys, Pescadero Point... Watched for years by the locals,and paddle-surfed at mid-size by very few. The wave would be dangerous even if it was 3 feet tall. It is the only 30-foot wave in the world that you could realistically ride over dry rocks, or get launched directly onto them. Locals like Don Curry and Armin Yeager tackled it "at size"on jetski, following Santa Cruzer Adam Repogle who had shown up on the cover of Surfer Magazine surfing Ghost Tree. Armin was the first to ride a giant barrel out there...... but he almost died there too. He talks about "seeing stars" and going limp....he said he almost blacked out under water. The wave is beyond dangerous. I have surfed the hell out of Mavericks and Waimea, and I can tell you that you could never out-paddle the lip at this place. Jaws may get taller...... but the lip-thickness of Ghost-trees cant be matched. I am not discounting those spots- but if I had to wipe-out somewhere it wouldn't be at Ghost-tree. If you get pulled in too deep you will definitely go into the rocks. You might even bounce off one if you fall. The injury rate so far at this spot is off the scale. This is the wild-west, and history hasnt been written here yet. My advice to newcomers who want to tow here........ study it from the cliff to learn the rocks and boils. And most important- pay your medical insurance, increase the limits, and lower your deductible. Oh yeah-you might not wanna show your agent this website either. Good luck nut-case!
photos and story by Wayne Kelly email here for comments/photos are available for media use