PLEASURE POINT -- Some of the most extreme tides of the year created much more beauty than havoc at beaches and reefs around Santa Cruz on Wednesday.
Emergency dispatchers, lifeguards and authorities at the Santa Cruz Small Craft Harbor said there was no flooding or rescues related to the 6.9 feet high tide at 8:30 a.m. Waves were in the chest-high range.
When a low tide of -1.6 feet hit about 3:55 p.m. it drained out places like Pleasure Point, creating a playground and temporary aquarium for dozens of children and families who strolled along the point.
"King tides," or the most extreme tides of the year, are created by the gravitational pull of the moon and sun. They align to create the widest range of tide a few times a year.
Thursday is expected to have the largest tidal range of the year with a 6.9 feet high tide about 9:20 a.m. and a -1.7 feet low tide about 4:40 p.m.
Darien Heron of Capitola said she had been waiting for the extreme low tide Wednesday so her 9-year-old son could fish in the tide pools at Pleasure Point.
"We had it on the calendar for today and tomorrow," Heron said, holding a bucket at a tide pool. "There are only a couple of times in the winter we can get this low of a tide."
Scouting out the fish with a group of young boys in wetsuits, her son, Kierran Ware,
Other families gazed at starfish, sea anemone and hundreds of yards of sea grass and rocks that are usually underwater along the point.
Chip Bockman, State Parks lifeguard supervisor, advised people who walk the beach to monitor tides for the next few days for safety.
"It's good to know when the tides are changing," said Bockman. "Definitely never turn your back on the waves. Stay high and dry on the rocks. If you're in a wet area, move back."
He added that extreme tidal changes have often stranded people on North Coast beaches that become inaccessible at high tide. Several people at Panther Beach near Davenport have been rescued in recent years.
Back at Pleasure Point, several people tried to catch a glimpse of a fossilized whale skeleton that appeared on the beach in November. Unfortunately, it's now covered with sand that shifted with recent storms.
Only a small piece was visible Wednesday.
"I live on the Westside, and I couldn't get down here to see it when it was uncovered," Norma Hadland said of the whale skeleton. She and others inspected the site Wednesday. "Now these storms have dumped like 3 feet of sand on it."
As the sunset painted the sky red and surfers raced along the clean, chest-high waves, she said the trip was fun anyway.
"It's gorgeous," she said. "It's worth coming out no matter what."
Follow Sentinel reporter Stephen Baxter on Twitter at Twitter.com/sbaxter_sc
THURSDAY: High 6.9 feet at 9:20 a.m., low -1.7 feet at 4:40 p.m.
FRIDAY: High 6.8 feet at 10:10 a.m., low -1.6 feet at 5:30 p.m.
SATURDAY: Low 2.4 feet at 4:55 a.m.. high 4.4 feet at 12:15 p.m., low -1.3 feet at 6:16 p.m.