From high altitude, even the most familiar coastlines take on an entirely new dimension. Combine that bird’s-eye-view with a pulsing swell, and you can see how points and bays manipulate the ocean’s energy, bending waves to perfection. It’s that enlightening perspective that first drew Woody Woodworth toward aerial photography. He’s been shooting California’s coastline from above for years, but this season was especially fruitful, when an aerial perspective offered him the fullest view of El Niño’s unrelenting power and jaw-dropping panoramas on February 24th and 25th. “Timing is crucial when you’re trying to capture a swell by plane,” he said. “But it offers a whole different perspective. You’re up in the air, spinning around, looking up the coast, looking down the coast, and all you can see are lines—you can’t do all that from a highway by drone.”
Here, Woodworth opens the vault for a rare glimpse at California's most iconic breaks, both past and present, from the sky.
Photo: Santa Cruz, 1982