Field measurements of beach morphology and sedimentology were made along the Monterey Peninsula and Carmel Bay, California, in the spring and summer of 1997. These data were combined with low-altitude aerial imagery, high-resolution bathymetry, and local geology to understand how coastal geomorphology, lithology, and tectonics influence the distribution and transport of littoral sediment in the nearshore and inner shelf along a rocky shoreline over the course of decades. Three primary modes of sediment distribution in the nearshore and on the inner shelf off the Monterey Peninsula and in Carmel Bay were observed. Along stretches of the study area that were exposed to the dominant wave direction, sediment has accumulated in shore-normal bathymetric lows interpreted to be paleo-stream channels. Where the coastline is oriented parallel to the dominant wave direction and streams channels trend perpendicular to the coast, sediment-filled paleo-stream channels occur in the nearshore as well, but here they are connected to one another by shore-parallel ribbons of sediment at depths between 2 and 6 m. Where the coastline is oriented parallel to the dominant wave direction and onshore stream channels are not present, only shore-parallel patches of sediment at depths greater than 15 m are present. We interpret the distribution and interaction or transport of littoral sediment between pocket beaches along this coastline to be primarily controlled by the northwest-trending structure of the region and the dominant oceanographic regime. Because of the structural barriers to littoral transport, peaks in wave energy appear to be the dominant factor controlling the timing and magnitude of sediment transport between pocket beaches, more so than along long linear coasts. Accordingly, the magnitude and timing of sediment transport is dictated by the episodic nature of storm activity. (C) 2000 Elsevier Science B.V.