The Original Wind Surfers: Pelicans, Waves and Surf

Wikipedia describes the origins of wind surfing in the 1940s and 1950s. It couldn’t be more wrong. For as long as they have existed, sea birds and their ancestors have plied the oceans, riding the updrafts of surf, waves and sea swells to gain efficiency and a free ride. My favorite practitioner of this skill is the pelican, although the wandering albatross is a close second. I have been watching pelicans cruise the coastline of my southern California home with a graceful effortlessness my whole life. This winter I made it a goal to shoot some images of brown pelicans surfing and skimming waves. Here are a few of my favorites, photographed in Carlsbad, Encinitas, Del Mar and La Jolla. Cheers, and thanks for looking!

California Pelican flying on a wave, riding the updraft from the wave, Pelecanus occidentalis, Pelecanus occidentalis californicus

California Pelican flying on a wave, riding the updraft from the wave.
Image ID: 30257
Species: Brown Pelican, Pelecanus occidentalis, Pelecanus occidentalis californicus

Brown pelican flying over waves and the surf, Pelecanus occidentalis, Pelecanus occidentalis californicus, La Jolla, California

Brown pelican flying over waves and the surf.
Image ID: 30199
Species: Brown Pelican, Pelecanus occidentalis, Pelecanus occidentalis californicus
Location: La Jolla, California, USA

California Pelican flying on a wave, riding the updraft from the wave, Pelecanus occidentalis, Pelecanus occidentalis californicus

California Pelican flying on a wave, riding the updraft from the wave.
Image ID: 30262
Species: Brown Pelican, Pelecanus occidentalis, Pelecanus occidentalis californicus

California Pelican flying on a wave, riding the updraft from the wave, Pelecanus occidentalis, Pelecanus occidentalis californicus

California Pelican flying on a wave, riding the updraft from the wave.
Image ID: 30275
Species: Brown Pelican, Pelecanus occidentalis, Pelecanus occidentalis californicus

Brown pelican flying over waves and the surf, Pelecanus occidentalis, Pelecanus occidentalis californicus, La Jolla, California

Brown pelican flying over waves and the surf.
Image ID: 30193
Species: Brown Pelican, Pelecanus occidentalis, Pelecanus occidentalis californicus
Location: La Jolla, California, USA

California Brown Pelican flying over a breaking wave, Pelecanus occidentalis, Pelecanus occidentalis californicus, La Jolla

California Brown Pelican flying over a breaking wave
Image ID: 30353
Species: Brown Pelican, Pelecanus occidentalis, Pelecanus occidentalis californicus
Location: La Jolla, California, USA

California Pelican flying on a wave, riding the updraft from the wave, Pelecanus occidentalis, Pelecanus occidentalis californicus

California Pelican flying on a wave, riding the updraft from the wave.
Image ID: 30277
Species: Brown Pelican, Pelecanus occidentalis, Pelecanus occidentalis californicus

Brown pelican flying over waves and the surf, Pelecanus occidentalis, Pelecanus occidentalis californicus, La Jolla, California

Brown pelican flying over waves and the surf.
Image ID: 30194
Species: Brown Pelican, Pelecanus occidentalis, Pelecanus occidentalis californicus
Location: La Jolla, California, USA

California Pelican flying on a wave, riding the updraft from the wave, Pelecanus occidentalis, Pelecanus occidentalis californicus

California Pelican flying on a wave, riding the updraft from the wave.
Image ID: 30278
Species: Brown Pelican, Pelecanus occidentalis, Pelecanus occidentalis californicus

California Brown Pelican flying over a breaking wave, Pelecanus occidentalis, Pelecanus occidentalis californicus, La Jolla

California Brown Pelican flying over a breaking wave
Image ID: 30364
Species: Brown Pelican, Pelecanus occidentalis, Pelecanus occidentalis californicus
Location: La Jolla, California, USA

California Brown Pelican flying over a breaking wave, Pelecanus occidentalis, Pelecanus occidentalis californicus, La Jolla

California Brown Pelican flying over a breaking wave
Image ID: 30374
Species: Brown Pelican, Pelecanus occidentalis, Pelecanus occidentalis californicus
Location: La Jolla, California, USA

California Pelican flying on a wave, riding the updraft from the wave, Pelecanus occidentalis, Pelecanus occidentalis californicus

California Pelican flying on a wave, riding the updraft from the wave.
Image ID: 30273
Species: Brown Pelican, Pelecanus occidentalis, Pelecanus occidentalis californicus

California Pelican flying on a wave, riding the updraft from the wave, Pelecanus occidentalis, Pelecanus occidentalis californicus

California Pelican flying on a wave, riding the updraft from the wave.
Image ID: 30314
Species: Brown Pelican, Pelecanus occidentalis, Pelecanus occidentalis californicus

California Brown Pelican flying over a breaking wave, Pelecanus occidentalis, Pelecanus occidentalis californicus, La Jolla

California Brown Pelican flying over a breaking wave
Image ID: 30352
Species: Brown Pelican, Pelecanus occidentalis, Pelecanus occidentalis californicus
Location: La Jolla, California, USA

California Pelican flying on a wave, riding the updraft from the wave, Pelecanus occidentalis, Pelecanus occidentalis californicus

California Pelican flying on a wave, riding the updraft from the wave.
Image ID: 30264
Species: Brown Pelican, Pelecanus occidentalis, Pelecanus occidentalis californicus

I photograph brown California brown pelicans (Pelecanus occidentalis). If you like these, please see more California brown pelican photos or a little PDF e-guide about photographing California brown pelicans in La Jolla.