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The Maker of Monsters: Shore Acres on South Oregon Coast in Video, Photos

Published 10/31/21 at 5:56 PM PDT
By Oregon Coast Beach Connection staff

The Maker of Monsters: Shore Acres on South Oregon Coast in Video, Photos

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(Coos Bay, Oregon) – The sheer drama of one Oregon coast spot can be downright shudder-inducing. In more ways than one.(Photo courtesy Manuela Durson - see Manuela Durson Fine Arts for more)

Coos Bay's Shore Acres cliffs are the ultimate wild ride spectacle for winter wave action, with monsters that tower some 200 feet above the watchers at times. There, a variety of shoreline geographic factors go into compressing incoming waves and transforming them into gargantuans, making for the most amazing of photos along the Oregon coast. See Why Shore Acres Waves Are So Big.

Video, too, shows some heart-stopping action. One minute there's a simple set of breakers pummeling the seascape. The next, there's a shower of ocean water as a giant explosion of white fills the scene.

On the cliffs themselves, you can actually feel the rumble of their power. The land beneath you shakes a little bit.

Really, catching this south Oregon coast hotspot in an off moment, when it's calm and almost placid: that's almost the unusual find here.

Steven Michael Smith is a Coos Bay-area photographer and videographer who has captured a ton of wowing images of the spot, and many are used by the area's travel bureau, Oregon's Adventure Coast: Coos Bay, Charleston, North Bend. Some of his are featured here in this photo essay.

Photo courtesy Brent Lerwill

According to Smith, the record-holder for highest wave happened on March 16 at approximate 320 feet. Last season's wild ride of major tides resulted in many well over 200 feet.

Smith teams up with other photographers to estimate the height of these waves. He sometimes receives photos from others, asking if he'll estimate how tall the watery explosions are.

Courtesy Oregon's Adventure Coast / Steve Michael Smith

He explained more on this process to Oregon Coast Beach Connection.

“The height is determined by the comparison of the cliff,” Smith said. “The cliffs at Shore Acres are on average 75 feet.”

Courtesy Oregon's Adventure Coast

Then, photographers in the area use a variety of comparisons, utilizing photos of the spot. In the computer, you have to superimpose / stack the images over each other for comparison. Sometimes you have to zoom one photo out or inward to get the dimensions of the cliffs to be the same.

“To find out which wave is higher than another, it is quite simple,” Smith said. “We lay one photo on top the other, fade one out by 40%, line up the cliff and either increase or decrease the faded image in order to match up the point on the cliff. Then it is easy to determine which one is taller.”

Courtesy Oregon's Adventure Coast / Steven Michael Smith

For example, Smith talked about one photo they used for comparison.

“If you move the wave to the same horizontal distance as the cliff, there is about an increase of 50 feet in wave size,” he said. “If you take the cliff and stack it, you get approx 150 feet: compare that to the wave height, come up with an average, and add 50 feet.”

It is not an exact science. He calls it a “guessing game” to some degree. But it is possible to estimate wave height based on how high the cliffs are and then eyeballing the tip of the wave above it.

However, the highest wave may not be the most dramatic for some very simple reasons of physics. It's a bit of a surprise.

“The images that I post show the wave not quite at its highest point,” Smith said. “The wave is still dramatically moving up to show the action. The wave will still rise a good 20-30 feet before gravity pulls it back down. There is less action in the wave when it is stopped by gravity.”

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