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Surf’s up, again – winter swell season delivers with more to come

Arms feeling like spaghetti yet? Ears waterlogged? Maybe taking full advantage of that, um, “work-from-home” situation that allows for some extra time to catch waves?

The winter surf season has been on full throttle in recent weeks, with the ocean delivering action-packed conditions along the Southern California coastline. Searching for bombing barrels? You can find them. Want peaky, punchy waves? No shortage of those either.



The run of good waves has been consistent since before Christmas, even back to Thanksgiving, with swell after swell showing up – and there’s no signs of the surf session slowing down any time soon.

“This is the most active west, northwest swells season for a couple years. The last two winters were relatively uneventful,” OC Lifeguards Chief Jason Young said. “This storm pattern in the north Pacific has been delivering swell after swell.

“It’s been great for surfers.”

The National Weather Service extended its high-surf advisory, due to expire early Wednesday, as another swell showed up on the radar promising more west-northwest swells from Thursday night, Jan. 7, through Saturday. The high-surf advisory will be in effect until at least 6 p.m. on Saturday, though forecasts show strong surf again into next week.

Orange County is expected to get 4-foot to 7-foot surf from Thursday evening through Saturday, according to the advisory. The Los Angeles area could be even bigger, with 5-foot to 8-foot surf and sets up to 10 feet along west and northwest-facing beaches.

With the big waves come big warnings.

“There is an increased risk of drowning. There will be dangerous rip currents – they can pull swimmers and surfers out to sea. Large breaking waves can cause injury, wash people off beaches and rocks, and capsize small boats near shore,” the advisory warns.

“Remain out of the water due to dangerous surf conditions, or stay near occupied lifeguard towers. Stay off rock jetties as they can be deadly in such conditions when waves break over them.”

A high tide of 5.9 feet for Saturday morning could spell trouble, with low-laying areas at flood risk when strong surf and high tide combine.

Seal Beach Marine Safety Officer Nick Bolin said there’s been four rescues and four medical aids in recent days, a reminder that people should always check in with a lifeguard.

“Bigger surf means stronger rip currents and more water moving,” he said. “Just make sure you check in with a lifeguard and know your ability level to stay safe.”

Young said county beaches had large crowds throughout the holiday and beefed up lifeguard presence at busy areas such as Aliso Beach in south Laguna Beach and Salt Creek in Dana Point, where 4-foot to 7-foot waves are expected in coming days, an area that has strong rip currents that can push surfers into rocks this time of year.

“People used to summer-time conditions are surprised they are being pulled into rocks at (Salt) Creek,” he said.

Lifeguards have been paroling coves to make sure people are safe and putting up flags to warn beachgoers as they hit the coast. Yellow flags mean moderate or medium waves that can be dangerous for inexperienced swimmers or surfers and red flags are a warning for even experienced surfers who can be overpowered by strong waves.

With water in the upper 50s, it’s mostly the surf crowds in the morning showing up.

“We have a lot of surfer in the water and we are trying to keep eyes on them at all times,” Young said.

But with weather inching into the 70s next week, lifeguards will be on guard.

“It’s just one swell after the next. The weather is also supposed to warm up quite a bit, we’re keeping an eye on that,” Young said. “We’ve already increased staffing this winter due to COVID-19, we’ve seen overall higher beach population, even for winter days. We’re preparing to get an increase in crowds.”

Source: Orange County Register

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