The biggest swell of the season – one of the biggest on record, say officials – peaked Monday on Oahu’s North Shore. Conditions were extreme enough to prompt the closure of the parking lot at Waimea Bay Beach Park. Lifeguards performed 34 rescues and 1,745 preventative actions on Oahu’s North Shore, and 68 rescues and 865 preventative actions on the west shore.
Monday’s massive swell was bigger than expected with officials calling it one of the biggest on record. “This swell definitely is what we had in 2016,” said Lt. Kerry Atwood, Ocean Safety North Shore. “That was by far some of the biggest surf I’ve seen in my career.”
The swell arrived Sunday with surf about 12 feet, but that all changed overnight. Lifeguards opened towers at Waimea Bay and Rock Piles and began patrols at 8 a.m. from two rescue watercraft. “Very large swell. We’re looking at right now 40- to 45-foot face value and a solid 20- to 25-foot Hawaiian,” Atwood said.
“This is amazing, the biggest waves I’ve ever seen in my life,” said Jim Piotrowski, a visitor from Connecticut. “I had cousins in the Navy that have seen some big stuff in the middle of the Atlantic, but this is right here on the shore. It’s quite amazing to see.”
All the sand that was taken from beneath the homes this summer at Ehukai, also known as Pipeline, ended up at Ke Iki Beach. Monday’s massive northwest swell is now covering the beach, and homeowners are hoping the waves brings the sand back to where it belongs.
“This is one of the largest swells we’ve seen since maybe the ’80s,” said a homeowner. “but this should fill up with sand and, believe it or not, in two months, this will be a 200- to 300-foot wide beach. I know it doesn’t seem like it now.”
Down the road, the fence broke off at Rock Piles overnight, and surge from the huge waves started to cross Kamehameha Highway with sea spray completely covering the North Shore. But the massive swell didn’t stop professional surfers from taking on Waimea Bay.
“Lots of rescues at Waimea Bay, lots of surfers needing assistance from rescue operators,” said Atwood, who noted that some of the rescues involved surf photographers. On Oahu’s west shore, the state closed Yokohama Bay Monday. Waves were expected to reach 20 to 30 feet.
The high surf warning will be in effect for most north- and west-facing shores, not including Hawaii island, until 6 p.m. Tuesday. Although the swell is expected to drop Tuesday, Ocean Safety warns the public, conditions will still be dangerous
“Out here, even the best of the best can easily get into trouble,” Atwood said. “The conditions are life-threatening. The surf on the North Shore doesn’t discriminate.”
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