Biggest swell so far this season draws crowds, safety concerns

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Lifeguards say Wednesday’s waves off Oahu’s North Shore were the largest they’ve seen so far this season.

Waves reached 30 to 40 feet, eating away at the sandy shoreline at places like Sunset Beach, Laniakea Beach, and Waimea Bay.

All day, KHON2 spotted tourists and locals alike stopping to park, take out their cell phones, and capture the scene.

“The North Shore any day is awesome, but to see the 30- to 40-foot surf is amazing,” said Mililani resident Liz George.

Lifeguards have been just as busy warning folks to stay out of the water.

With powerful waves pummeling the beach, there’s another major concern.

“What we’re dealing with in a lot of beaches is a lot of erosion,” said Lt. John Hoogsteden with the city’s Ocean Safety and Lifeguard Services Division. “Swells are coming in and cutting sand banks. We’re trying to keep people back to lessen the erosion. The main thing is that people use care and common sense and caution.”

The dangerous swells prompted officials to move the lifeguard tower at Sunset Beach about 20 feet “so it would not end up in the ocean,” according to a spokeswoman. Much of Sunset Beach has eroded.

The swells also caused parts of the bike path to wear away, leaving debris in the water.

“At least 30 to 40 yards of sand gone, up against the bike path. It’s been bad,” said North Shore resident Kimo Leong. “I think today with this big surge of waves we been having, lucky we don’t have king tides today.”

Leong says residents are doing what they can to protect their oceanfront homes.

“Just trying to take precautions,” he said. “We can’t really do anything more. Mother Nature will do what Mother Nature wants, right? So we take precautions and hope for the best.”

Meanwhile Ocean Safety is urging folks to forget about taking the pictures, and stay away from places close to the water.

“If the sand is smooth, it means the waves have been there,” Hoogsteden said. “Don’t go out onto the rocks. Even if the rocks are dry, we’re seeing bigger sets throughout the day. They could sweep you off your feet. You could become like cheese in a cheese grater.”

Ocean safety officials say they’re also worried about the large swells causing sand stone, which actually looks like sand, but is hard as rocks.

When in doubt, don’t go out, and that includes stepping on the sand.

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