A bad day at the Palos Verdes Cove

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Palos Verdes surf boat wreck

Outside. Photo by Tom Kampas


Hermosa Beach longboarder Dave Schaefer was anticipating a mellow day of surfing and maybe free diving when he left King Harbor about noon on Tuesday, February 12, aboard his friend’s 12-foot inflatable Novurania. He was headed to the Cove in Palos Verdes, the only place he figured wouldn’t be closed out on the head high, west swell.

The inflatable’s 15-horsepower Yamaha soon had him dropping anchor outside of Boneyards, on the south end of the Cove. He had the spot marked on his GPS because he commonly anchored his sailboat there. But when a medium size set rocked the inflatable, he decided to pull anchor and move out another 250 yards.

Palos Verdes Surf boat crash

The clean-up set.

Then he waxed his board, tied it off the stern and ate a sandwich. After waiting 30 minutes to make sure his boat didn’t drift he jumped in the water.

“I caught a few good ones and then all of a sudden a big set came through. When I kicked out and looked back I saw whitewater all the away across the Cove, from Indicator to Ski Jump,” Schaefer said

Tom Kampas and fellow Cove regulars Tom Severin and Tim Dodson were at the lookout point above the Cove when they saw the big set come through. Kampas had been videoing red tail hawks.

Palos Verdes surf boat crash

Soup sliding. Photo by Tom Kampas

“I said to Severin, ‘Look at that outside set. It’s going to get that boat,'” Kampas said.

Kampas’ video shows the anchor holding briefly, and then, like a surfer taking off on a wave by sinking the tail, the boat popped out of the front of the wave and flipped toward shore.

“When the next wave picked it up, the boat started tomb-stoning across Frisbee reef, and kept on tomb-stoning ’til it landed in Boneyards,” Kampas said.

Palos Verdes boat surf crash

Dave Schaefer prepares to paddle back out, with his boat.

Schaefer paddled in as quickly as he could to the boat, which landed upright, but was filled with water. He released the anchor line, slung a bowline over his shoulder and began paddling the boat back out to sea.

“Their was a lull between swells and I thought I might make it. But then another set came through. I made it over the first wave, but the second one flipped the boat. That’s when it got obliterated. The cowling came off the engine, the starboard inflatable tore and the steering console got smashed.”

Palos Verdes Surf boat crash

Schaefer makes it over one wave.

Fortunately, Schaefer’s cell phone was still in the boat in its waterproof case.

He called Redondo Harbor Patrol on the non emergency line and casually asked, “What if your boat washed up on the rocks at the Cove, and no one was hurt and no fuel was leaking?”

“We’ll be right there,” the operator answered. Minutes later Lifeguard Baywatch boats from King Harbor and San Pedro were anchored safely outside the surf line.

Palos Verdes surf boart crash

Wipe out. Photo by Tom Kampas

Lifeguard Jonas Russell, a friend of Schaefer’s swam in.

Three other lifeguards came running down the trail. After politely suggesting he go catch a few more waves, the lifeguards swam the half submerged boat far enough out for Bay Watch Redondo to toss it a line. Then they towed it back to King Harbor.

Palos Verdes surf boat crash

Even the lifeguards had a tough time.

Kampas videoed the action from start to finish, 22 minutes. He plans to enter the video in the annual Hermosa Beach Surf Film Festival.

Palos Verdes Surf boat crash

A long sail home