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Pescadero Point: Exploring the Wave at Ghost Trees

Pescadero Point is located on the scenic 17-Mile Drive in Pebble Beach, California. It is situated on the Monterey Peninsula and forms the northern tip of the famous Stillwater Cove. Known for its stunning views, rocky shoreline, and rugged terrain, Pescadero Point is a popular destination for tourists and nature enthusiasts. The point is also in close proximity to the renowned Ghost Trees surf break.

pescadero point surfing

Ghost Trees is known for its size and power, and it has attracted some of the world’s best surfers over the years. However, it is also a wave that has a dark side, with several tragic accidents occurring in the area.

On rare winter days with the proper westerly angle, waves are focused by the deep Carmel Canyon to rear up as much as 60 ft (18 m) in height. Ghost Trees was once hailed as the next big thing in extreme surfing until a series of events and federal decisions kept riders out of the water. The wave is now considered inaccessible, and surfing it is illegal.

Despite its inaccessibility, Ghost Trees remains a popular topic among surfers and surfing enthusiasts. It is a wave that has a rich history and has left a lasting impact on the sport of surfing.

What are the Ghost Trees at Pescadero Point?

The Ghost Trees of Pescadero Point, California, have a rich history that spans back centuries. The area is known for its white and gnarly cypress trees that resemble ghosts or witches. The local Native American tribes, such as the Ohlone and Rumsen, have long considered this area sacred and believed that the trees were inhabited by spirits.

But, that’s not all that’s spooky about this place. Legend has it that there’s this one tree in particular that’s haunted by a “Lady in Lace.” People have reported seeing her on dark, foggy nights near Ghost Tree, and it’s freaked out more than a few motorists driving down the 17 Mile Drive. Some folks think the Lady in Lace is actually Dona Maria, who used to own a big chunk of the Pebble Beach property. Others say she’s a jilted bride wearing a wedding dress and wandering around in sadness for all eternity. Of course, some people think it’s just a trick of the light and fog. But who knows? Maybe there really is a ghostly lady haunting Ghost Tree.

The ghost trees at Pescadero Point are threatened by a blight of beetles that is killing many of the cypress and pine trees in California. Foresters predict that the few remaining cypress trees at Pescadero Point will soon join their ghostly brethren in death. This beetle infestation is expected to kill much of the cypress and pine trees in California over the next 20 years.

ghost tree at pescadero point


History of Ghost Trees and Pescadero Point

Early Surfing at Pescadero Point

Pescadero Point is a rocky shoreline located in Pebble Beach, California. The area has been a popular surfing spot since the early 1960s. Surfers explored the surroundings, studied the optimal riding conditions, and gave it a go. The first surfer to adventure himself into the Ghost Trees was Fred Van Dyke, who bodysurfed it (according to Wikipedia that is, and we haven’t found a good source that this is true).

The Big Wave Boom

In the early 2000s the tow in surfing boom erupted, and surfers began to take on challenging waves that hadn’t been attempted before.  With the aid of PWCs, surfers could finally ride a wave like Ghost Trees.  With video and magazine exposure, and an unforgettable name, Ghost Trees suddenly hit the mainstream – much to the chagrin of local tow surfers who would have rather the wave went under the radar.

Those were the days when like people started to tow in, and like all of a sudden they realized we can surf these, like, fucked up waves that nobody else wanted to surf, you know?

–Patrick Trefz, on the early days of pioneering big wave spots

The Death of Pete Davi

Pete Davi, a renowned big-wave surfer from Monterey, California, was a well-respected and influential figure in the surfing community. Born on November 19, 1970, Davi was known for his fearless approach to riding massive waves and his incredible skill in navigating the most challenging surf breaks.

Throughout his career, Davi built a reputation for seeking out the biggest and most dangerous waves. He was a regular at the famous big-wave surf spot Mavericks, located off the coast of Half Moon Bay, California. But it was at another notorious surf break, Ghost Trees, where Davi would face his ultimate challenge.

On December 4, 2007, Pete Davi paddled out at Ghost Trees to surf the massive swells generated by a powerful winter storm. The waves that day were estimated to be between 60 and 70 feet high, making it one of the biggest swells ever seen at the break. According to locals, it seems that Pete had lost his board and attempted to swim to shore, to no avail.

Fellow surfers and friends on jet skis immediately launched a frantic search to find Davi in the churning waters. Tragically, by the time they located him and brought him to shore, it was too late. Despite valiant resuscitation efforts, the 35-year-old surfer could not be revived.

pete davi surfing ghost trees / pescadero point

Surfing at Ghost Trees and Pescadero Point Today

After the tragedy in 2007, a battle ensued as NOAA (the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration) decided to crack down on the amount of personal watercraft that were buzzing through the area.  The deluge of surfers had become too much for the fragile ecosystem.

The ban of PWCs went into effect in 2009 in the entire Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary, and as a result surfing effectively dried up at Ghost Trees.  Without the aid of a jetski, the wave is pretty nigh unsurfable as it’s too big and fast to paddle into successfully and safely.

Surfing Ghost Trees now would be considered a deathwish, as you’d have no advanced lifesaving aid without jetskis in the area, and paddling in is exceptionally dangerous.

How Ghost Tree Took Big Wave Surfing By Storm... Then Disappeared | Made In Central California Ep1How Ghost Tree Took Big Wave Surfing By Storm… Then Disappeared | Made In Central California Ep1

Pescadero Point – Fading Into Legend

Pescadero Point is a beautiful and treacherous coastline that has claimed at least one life over the years. The infamous waves at Ghost Trees are a testament to the power and danger of the ocean. With the surfing at Ghost Trees reduced now to mostly legend, the area is still a beauty to behold.  A bike tour of the 17 mile stretch of coastline is well worth the effort.  Despite the loss of a surfable wave, it’s important to celebrate conservation milestones as well, so that all can appreciate the beauty of spots like Pescadero Point for years to come.

Hayley Gordon

Hayley Gordon has been surfing for over 20 years. Riding both shortboards and longboards, she's traveled the world to surf but mainly sticks to her two home locations of San Diego and Long Island.

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