South swell delivers bone-crunching surf to Sandy Beach

Sandy Beach

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Sandy Beach has long been considered one of the most dangerous beaches in the world. Often called “Break Neck Beach,” the popular shore break has certainly seen its share of broken necks and backs.

The latest south swell is once again delivering bone-crunching surf to Sandy Beach.

“It just curls and it just sucks you under and if you go over the falls, you’re just done,” Nanakuli resident Kekoopono Weisbarth-Tafaoimalo said.

“Those particular ocean conditions are extremely unforgiving and one instance of making a small mistake can lead to devastating consequences,” Ocean Safety Chief of Operations Jim Howe said.

Every year, City lifeguards make more rescues at Sandy’s than at any other beach they guard. The spot requires a great deal of expertise and even the experts can get hurt.

In 2012, lifeguards made 472 rescues. Still, 6,089 people were injured — 65 of those injuries were severe and victims needed to be transported to hospitals.

“Most of these serious trauma injuries aren’t in the big surf, they’re happening when the surf waist-high or smaller,” Howe said.

Ocean Safety officials say an aggressive prevention program at Sandy Beach has helped keep the numbers from being even higher.

Despite permanent signage and constant communication, lifeguards still made more than 64,000 preventive actions in 2012. Even the experts can get in trouble.

“Wherever you find a shore break situation and Sandy Beach is the classic situation where we have shore break 365 days a year. It’s a high hazard situation whether you’re a beginner or whether you’re a professional,” Howe said.

Last week, a former professional bodyboarder suffered a broken neck while bodyboarding in the shore break. He is expected to make a full recovery with no paralysis.

“You need to be in shape you need to know what you’re doing,” Weisbarth-Tafaoimalo said. “Even experienced people you never know anything can happen at any time.”

“The fact that there’s no water on the bottom means that if you make a mistake and go over the falls, you’re going to land either on the reef or the hard packed sand,” Howe said.

When it comes to injuries, Mother Nature does not discriminate and the ocean can be unforgiving.

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