Nearly 50 rescued on Oahu as warning-level surf continues through Sunday

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A high surf warning is still in effect as extra-large surf continues to hit most of the state’s north and west facing shores.

The majority of rescues took place at Waimea Bay, the only spot that was rideable due to the large surf.

The first rescue call came in around 8:56 a.m., for a surfer in distress. The Honolulu Fire Department took a rescue board out and an off-duty firefighter brought the surfer to lifeguards.

“They were able to rescue him the old fashion way with fins, a rescue tube and a rescue board and thank god that was successful and that individual made it back to the beach safely,” said Honolulu Ocean Safety Lt. Kerry Atwood.

He said by 10:30 a.m., there were eight surfers who had to be rescued— all at Waimea Bay.

“Most of them had just been inexperienced surfers that had to be helped in with our rescue craft,” he said.

He wars surfers to know their limits, especially during high surf warnings.

“If you are a surfer the biggest thing you can do is know your limits, know what you’re capable of and also really sit down and watch the surf for a good amount of time so you don’t paddle out there and find yourself in over your head,” he said.

Even experienced surfers found themselves in trouble at the Bay on Saturday. One surfer wiped out on a 30-foot face value wave which broke his board in half.

“I took off really deep, probably too deep and got to the bottom of the wave and then the nose of my board sort of buried and I went head over heels and just kind of got tossed really bad,” surfer Doug Falter said while laughing.

He said it’s no joke at Waimea Bay when the surf is that big.

“Every time I go out there there’s usually people who aren’t very experienced and you can tell just by seeing them immediately and if you haven’t really worked your way up to a size like this I would suggest not going out because you’ll get rescued just like that guy just did,” he pointed out the surfer who was rescued a few seconds after he was brought in, who got stuck in a rip current.

“The guys out there were saying he could have died out there easily,” Falter said.

Pupukea Beach Park, Shark’s Cove, Sunset Beach, Ke Iki Beach, Laniakea Beach, Waimea Bay beach, and Rock Piles all remained closed with caution tape.

Even the World Surf League called off the Sunset Open due to the extra-large surf.

Saturday’s swell was especially dangerous and is continued to build rapidly throughout the day.

One of the Eddie Aikau Big Wave Invitational surfers and forecasters for the event was out at Waimea Saturday morning.

“Surprisingly a few 20-footers came through and it almost worried me because I’m one of the Eddie forecasters and I was kind of thinking while I was out there like ‘Did we blow it by not calling on the contest? Because this is a legitimate set,” said surfer Chris Owens.

He said Saturday’s surf models weren’t showing the right seas versus period for them to “confidently call on the contest.”

“The contest has really stepped up on the criteria, ever since Greg Long won it in 2009, and we want it to be 20-25 feet which is like between 40 foot and 50 foot waves faces and we always want the Eddie to be a memorable day, a day you look back and go ‘Wow it was huge that day,’” Owens said.

“Waimea is the best arena in the world for a big wave event and the Eddie is the greatest show on earth when it happens,” he said.

Saturday’s surf was just a few feet shy of Eddie size.

“If the models showed it was going to be a solid 18 feet at 19 seconds, we probably could have ran it,” Owens said. “A few feet matters as far as sea height goes but when it’s mostly showing 14 to 15 feet, we can’t depend on that it’s just not big enough,” he explained.

The holding period for The Eddie goes until the end of February.

“I know it’s rare for the Eddie to ever run in February, it’s only happened once I believe, but it can still happen, I’ve seen giant swells even in March that weren’t even El Nino years,” he said.

The northwest swell is expected to drop slightly Sunday, but lifeguards warn it will still be dangerous

“Just because we’re not expected to have as big of surf anticipate it being a no recreational swim day and we ask you to please stay off of wet rocks, stay back from caution tape, abide by signs, listen to lifeguards, and remember carelessness costs lives,” Lt. Atwood said.

Lifeguards stayed overtime Saturday.

As of 6 p.m., there were 38 rescues on the North Shore, all but one were at Waimea Bay. There were also over 3,000 preventive actions across the North Shore.

On Oahu’s west side, lifeguards rescued 11 and had more than 1,200 preventative actions.

This comes as there’s a high surf warning for north and west facing shores of Niihau, Kauai, Oahu, Molokai and north-facing shores of Maui until 6 p.m. Sunday.

Surf will rapidly rise to 25 to 35 feet today, hold through tonight, then lower to 20 to 28 feet Sunday along north and west facing shores of Niihau and Kauai, and north-facing shores of Oahu, Molokai, and Maui. Along west-facing shores of Oahu and Molokai, the surf will rapidly rise to 17 to 25 feet today, hold through tonight, then lower to 14 to 20 feet Sunday.

Kauai County has issued a no swimming or snorkeling advisory for all north- and west-facing shores due to high surf and dangerous ocean conditions.

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