‘Carelessness costs lives.’ Plea from lifeguards with dangerous surf along north, west shores


Another winter swell has reached Hawaii, prompting a warning from lifeguards: Be careful when you’re in or near the ocean.

A high surf warning is in effect until 6 p.m. Thursday with large, dangerous surf along north- and west-facing shores of all but Hawaii island, which is under a high surf advisory.

On Oahu, wave faces were around 15 to 20 feet off the North Shore and 15 to 18 feet off the west shore Wednesday.

At Sunset Beach, the Vans World Cup of Surfing was canceled because the waves exceeded the threshold.

But the ocean proved tempting for many, drawing crowds to Waimea Bay Wednesday.

Only the experienced ventured out. One watchful dad kept an eye out for his 14-year-old son.

“I think he’s got the tools to be out here and the confidence, so he’s doing okay, but it’s always nerve-racking when the waves are this big,” said Dave Swanson.

Honolulu’s Ocean Safety Division reported 24 rescues and 2,088 preventative actions on Oahu’s North Shore, and 42 rescues and 954 preventative actions on the west shore.

All North Shore rescues involved surfers, officials said. One injured his arm, but none needed to be taken to the hospital. 

Ocean Safety is on winter staffing, which means three lifeguards man each station on the North Shore.

No recreational swimming is allowed and just remember, when in doubt stay out.

Lt. Kerry Atwood, North Shore Ocean Safety, notes beaches like Shark’s Cove and Three Tables are even more dangerous because there are no permanent lifeguard stations.

“If you are planning on coming out to the North Shore and viewing the surf, we please ask that you respect the ocean,” he said. “You do not venture out onto wet rocks. You do not cross caution tape. You stay back from wet sand, abide by warning signs, never turn your back on the ocean, and most importantly, listen to your lifeguard. Carelessness costs lives.”

Two watercraft were also actively patrolling the North Shore.

“if you do get into trouble and require assistance, you’re going to have rely on a mobile responder,” Atwood said.

“There’s a safety vest now, these inflatable vests that make people probably a little extra confident about being out there, but still I think nothing beats time and experience in the water,” Swanson said.

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