HONOLULU (KHON2) — An extra large swell hit the state’s north-facing shores on Friday, with wave heights reaching about 30 feet face value on Oahu’s North Shore.
Spectators and surfers arrived at Waimea Bay before dawn to check out the surf.
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“I guess just the beauty and the awe of these giant waves coming in here, I think for a lot of people it’s a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. I don’t think they have seen waves this big,” said North Shore resident Cory Tixier.
“Never seen waves like these before. There’s just so much energy. I can’t believe how high the waves are,” said visitor Richie Parilla.
Thankfully, Waimea tower guard Joey Cadiz came to Waimea before his shift on Friday to check out the surf conditions. He noticed two bodysurfers in the wrong spot in the shorebreak and saw one get into trouble.
“I wasn’t on duty yet, but as it progressed, one of the guys got sucked out and immediately swept out,” Cadiz explained. “I immediately notified superiors and dispatch that there was a situation going on that required more resources, because it was potentially life-threatening with the large surf we have today, and then I paddled out to get that person in need.”
There were other surfers who heard the man’s call for help about 400 yards away and made contact with the man while Cadiz paddled about 600 yards out from shore with a surfboard and fins.
A few minutes later, a rescue craft arrived, including Honolulu Fire Department and Emergency Medical Services.
The rescue craft brought both the man and Cadiz to shore.
“The whole thing could have been prevented. I just showed up, and if we were working and the towers were open, that’s exactly the kinds of things we would go down and talk to those kinds of people to inform them of the dangers that they’re in,” Cadiz explained of the importance of tower guards being included in the dawn to dusk program. “Those guys in the water today said they were water savvy and apparently they had a lesson to learn today.”
Lifeguards warned and prevented about 2,000 people from getting into serious trouble on Oahu’s North Shore on Friday.
Even professional surfers urge people to take the lifeguard warnings seriously, because even they can get into trouble.
In February 2021, Eddie alternate and big wave surfer Mikey O’Shaughnessy nearly drowned after a terrible wipeout at Pipeline. Lifeguards and other surfers quickly and safely brought him to shore.
“If it wasn’t for the lifeguards, the surfers, first responders, paramedics, doctors and therapists, I would not be standing right here before you,” he said. “It was definitely a life changing accident.”
He said he watched the rescue Cadiz made earlier in the morning.
“Joey was on it first thing before the tower was even open, running out there in a matter of minutes and saved this guy’s life, so yeah these guys are the guardian angels, the protectors, and they’re watching over all of us not only the surfers, but the beachgoers, and all the families, so we owe them our lives and everything,” O’Shaughnessy said.
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“The ocean is a very dangerous place, so you want to be aware of your surroundings and listen to the lifeguards and your instincts,” he said. “Just pay attention to every detail out here because one moment to the next it could be your last one.”