High surf triggers warnings, rescues and traffic

It was a big day of surf for Hawaii’s north- and west-facing shores Wednesday.

A high surf warning was in effect for north- and west-facing shores of Niihau, Kauai, Oahu and Molokai, and north-facing shores of Maui and west-facing shores of the Big Island.

The swell was expected to peak Wednesday night and fade Thursday to 20-30 feet for the North Shore and 12-18 feet for the west shore.

Due to hazardous conditions, the state Department of Land and Natural Resources and City and County of Honolulu announced the following closures:

  • Oahu: Waimea Bay Beach Park and Kaena Point State Park (Keawaula section)
  • Big Island: Hapuna Beach State Recreation Area

Meanwhile, State Parks personnel are monitoring Lapakahi State Historical Park and Kekaha Kai State Park to determine if any action is needed in those areas.

waimea bay north shore closed

But that didn’t keep surfers out of the water.

On Oahu, ocean safety officials recorded 34 rescues in West Oahu (12 in Makaha) with 447 preventative actions, nine rescues on the North Shore (three at Sunset Beach, six at Waimea Bay) with 1,403 preventative actions and several broken boards.

“It’s so strong out there, just pulling you in so many directions, and if you’re not sure which way to go and instead you’re fighting it, you’ll become so tired and weak that there’s just not much you can do,” said Ocean Safety and Lifeguard Services spokeswoman Shayne Enright.

Waves reached 40-foot faces at Waimea Bay, officials said, and water surges were reported to be coming over roadways, specifically Laniakea, 3 Tables, Sharks Cove and Ke Iki.

“They’re massive. I had to come and see it for myself,” said Ewa Beach resident Ashley Graham. “My husband told me about it when he was visiting last year and now that we live here, I wanted to see it.”

Drivers also encountered a major traffic jam that started in Haleiwa and crawled along Kamehameha Highway.

Wawaloli (OTEC) Beach in Kona (Photo: Denise Boatwright)

On Kauai, ocean safety officials say Wednesday’s conditions are ideal for experienced big-wave surfers, but onlookers are asked to heed the warnings.

“We are urging anyone who visits North Shore beaches to stay away from the shoreline as a safety precaution,” warned ocean safety supervisor Kalani Vierra. “Surging waters will sweep over beaches and can easily knock people off their feet and suck them out into the water.”

The Ocean Safety Bureau recommends visiting guarded beaches at Lydgate or Poipu through the high surf warning.

Beachgoers are advised be aware of hazardous surges along beaches. Drivers should be aware of sand and debris on roads.

The Department of Emergency Management urges everyone to be aware of the following high surf precautions and actions:

  • Residents and visitors are asked to avoid affected beach areas and to comply with life safety instructions issued by Ocean Safety Lifeguards, police and other emergency responders.
  • Visitors should check with their hotel front desk for any important information regarding high surf hazards before heading out to beaches. • Monitor TV and radio for important emergency information and updates.
  • Beach goers should stay well out of the water, away from peninsulas and reef areas overlooking the ocean and be aware of sudden hazardous changes in ocean behavior.
  • Motorists driving along affected shores should exercise caution as roads can become blocked with sand and debris. In addition, motorists should also be cautious of pedestrians crossing roads or highways to view the surf.
  • Campers at county, State or private facilities located on the shoreline should be aware of and ready to respond to high surf hazards.
  • Consider measures to protect your property and prepare to evacuate to a safer location if necessary. Listen to your radio or television for specific emergency information and instructions.

If you have a high surf related emergency and are in need of emergency assistance call 9-1-1 immediately.


Sascha Schindler shared the following photos while skydiving above Kaena Point Wednesday morning:

1-21 north shore from sky 1 Sascha Schindler

1-21 north shore from sky 2 Sascha Schindler

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