ENCINITAS — Perched in a home above Moonlight Beach — where every day she gets a front row view to take pictures of surfers, the sunrise and the sunset — is where Wendy Harper found the inspiration to create her Instagram page: moonlightsurfreport.
“I’ve always had a passion for photography, so I started, for no reason, shooting pictures of surfers,” said Harper, a landscape architect who majored in photography in college. “There was this beautiful girl surfing and I was taking some shots of her and she saw me. So, then I thought, ‘Oh, creepy old lady taking pictures,’ so I go down on the beach and introduced myself.”
The two exchanged information, so that Harper could send the woman the pictures she had taken of her. Harper said after that, the surfer started sending her messages every day to her personal Instagram account asking what the surf was like on that particular day.
“She kept direct messaging me ‘Wendy, where are the waves?’, ‘where are the waves?’, ‘where are the waves?’ and I thought, you know what, I’m just going to make a surf report because I wake up so early every morning anyway.”
Now, three years later, the page has amassed more than 4,500 followers and become quite a staple in the surfing, body boarding, swimming, and stand up paddling community in Encinitas.
“We’re all in touch and we direct message each other,” she said. “It’s just nice being connected with the entire community.”
Harper lives in the mid-century modern home with Kenny, her partner of 16 years. The bi-level home, which boasts two large balconies on each level, was built in 1962 by Kenny’s grandpa.
Harper said Kenny has lived there and longboarded on the beach since the year it was built. She said she’s a competitive swimmer.
Harper says she wakes up every morning before 6 a.m., takes a short video of the waves and describes the size of the waves, as best she can.
“Sometimes (the surfers) tease me, but it’s been a lot of fun,” she said.
She said the response to her page has been largely positive and she loves reading all the comments.
One from wheresjatoday reads: “You definitely have the dream house, I’ve dreamed about drinking a coffee/beer on that lanai since the first time I visited Encinitas.” Another, posted by anteyemike, reads: “All my memories of childhood and my teenage years are spent in front of your house.”
Since she started the page on Sept. 1, 2016, Harper has posted more than 4,200 ocean-based videos and pictures, including countless incredible snaps of surfers, vivid sunrise and sunset pictures, captures of lightning striking the water, many dolphin shots, and personal moments between family and friends. Some of her favorites include a shot of a father and his young son boogie boarding together, a boy from a surf PE class paddling in a wave with six dolphins, and a blink-and-you miss-it moment of a dolphin looking straight at her surfer pal Jason, aka wheresjatoday.
“He was out front this day when we had a bunch of dolphins and this one dolphin stood up and looked at him, and I got a shot of it,” Harper recalled with excitement. “The dolphin jumped up on its tail, up out of the water.”
Harper says her page is sometimes also used as a service of sorts. She said sometimes surfers will forget their boards at the beach and they’ll message her with where they left it and a description of the board. She’ll post the information on her page and she says more times than not, they’ll get it back.
“I swear this community is so tight that 90% of those boards are recovered and returned to the owner.”
Other times it has served as a type of neighborhood watch, where somebody will see a suspicious person and post a video of them, Harper will then post the video to her page, and she said a few people have actually ended up getting caught.
Harper said she recently received a DM from a follower named Sebastian telling her how much he enjoys the page.
“Hey, I just wanted to say I really enjoy following you guys,” the message reads. “At first, I thought it was just a surf report, but it’s really a community report. Kudos and cheers.”
Harper says one of her favorite parts of it all has been watching all the young surfers — called groms — grow up over the years.
“We watch these little groms and their crews grow up, from tiny all the way through high school and going off to college,” Harper said. “And one of my favorite guys I like to shoot is one of the lifeguards now, so it’s just nice watching them and following what they’re doing in their lives.”
Harper says people have become so accustomed to her page that she hears about it if she skips on a daily post.
“If I miss one somebody will say, ‘Wendy, where are you?’”