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High surf on all islands forecast as winds whip up

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  • DENNIS ODA / 2009
    High surf on the North Shore usually attracts hordes of sightseers, causing traffic on Kamehameha Highway between Haleiwa and Waimea Bay.

Herman Bulls, a 28-year-old soldier stationed in Fairbanks, Alaska, took his first surf lesson at Puena Point on Oahu’s North Shore yesterday and had planned to ride the big waves forecasted for today.

"I’m excited about them," said Bulls, who describes himself as "kind of an adventure guy."

"But if you don’t own your own board, some places say, ‘We won’t rent to you.’"

A low-pressure system north of the islands is bringing waves with 25- to 35-foot faces today to the north- and west-facing shores of all islands, including the Big Island, said forecaster Victor DeJesus of the National Weather Service.

A high-surf warning was issued at 6 p.m. yesterday and will be in effect until 6 a.m. tomorrow, when the waves will begin to diminish.

A high-surf advisory has also been issued for windward shores, which could get between 10 and 14 feet in some places.

"It’ll actually clip a lot of those places that have exposure to a northerly swell," including Kahuku and Marine Corps Base Hawaii in Kaneohe, DeJesus said.

"A lot of spots will be under 10 feet," he said, but he chose to "err on the side of caution."

The winds are expected to be blowing from 10 to 20 mph today, and start to ramp up to 15 to 25 mph and gusty tomorrow on the north and east shores, with lighter winds on west shores, and 35 knots in the channels, DeJesus said.

Eric Basta, manager of Surf N Sea, a Haleiwa surf shop, said yesterday that the forecast of big waves isn’t generating a lot of excitement, but is not due to a post-tsunami mood.

"It’s going to be kind of windy, so maybe not so good," he said. "It’s not as big as we’ve already seen this winter."

The tsunami effect was evident as late as Saturday with some "strange currents, but I don’t think that’s going to be a factor whether the normal big-wave surfers are going to be out," Basta noted.

However, "Friday, we just weren’t renting," he said. "There was still plenty of water moving. We have the river flowing behind the shop."

He said most of the pro surfers have already left the islands, so it’ll mostly be awestruck visitors and regular, local big-wave riders enjoying the waves.

The city’s Department of Emergency Management issued a warning to beachgoers that possible rip currents can easily overpower even strong swimmers.

On Thursday, a 53-year-old Canadian woman drowned after being swept out to sea at Pine Trees, an area of Ke Iki Beach on the North Shore, where conditions were rough.

Officials said Holly Day of Alberta and two other relatives had been letting waves wash over their legs when they were swept out to sea. Bystanders helped the other two out.

Lifeguards pulled Day from the water and performed cardiopulmonary resuscitation on shore, assisted by fire rescue personnel.

Day was taken to Wahiawa General Hospital, where she died from accidental drowning, the Medical Examiner’s Office said. She also received minor blunt force injury to the head.

Fire Capt. Terry Seelig said people tend to gravitate to the little, sandy coves along the North Shore, which may not look as rough as they are.

"People can be easily deceived" when there’s a lull between sets, he said.

Bulls, who is deploying to Afghanistan in 30 days, said, "I’m not going to do anything too stupid to get myself drowned." He eventually conceded, "It’ll probably be best to sit back and enjoy it. … I heard you can actually feel the waves crashing on the shore."


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