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Thursday, September 15, 2005

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DENNIS ODA / DODA@STARBULLETIN.COM
People gathered yesterday to watch both the surfers and crashing waves off Magic Island.


Surf stirs tidal
wave of rescues

City lifeguards performed more than 120 rescues on Oahu by 5 p.m. yesterday as waves with 10- to 15-foot high faces pounded southern shores.

More than 100 of the rescues were at Ala Moana and Waikiki beaches. The most serious was a broken leg in Waikiki, said Rob Miller, city Ocean Safety and Lifeguard Services Division dispatcher.

Lifeguards also reported performing 20 rescues, mostly at Sandy Beach and Makapuu, some on Windward beaches and two rescues on the North Shore. They also assisted about 280 swimmers and surfers and prevented more than 400 people from entering the ocean.

The National Weather Service has a high-surf warning in effect for the south-facing shores of all islands and expects wave heights to reach 15 feet through this morning then decrease to 6 to 10 feet by this afternoon.

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DENNIS ODA / DODA@STARBULLETIN.COM
High surf off Oahu's southern shore made for good surfing yesterday at "Ala Moana Bowl" off Magic Island.


On Maui, government officials closed the state beach at Makena due to 8- to 12-foot shore breaks, and also shut down South Kihei Road near Mokulele Highway because of wave surges flooding a stream and nearby coastal area. A sailboat was destroyed when it ran aground at Kamaole Beach I in Kihei.

Last night, Lanai and Maui firefighters rescued two swimmers who were in the high surf off Manele Bay, Lanai. The swimmers were 200 yards offshore and would have been thrashed by the turbulent waters if they had attempted to swim to shore, a fire spokesman said. Instead, Lanai fire rescue workers swam out to the swimmers using torpedo buoys, and a Maui helicopter plucked the swimmers out of the water at about 6:24 p.m.

On Kauai, a fire spokesman said a few people had to be pulled from the high surf in the Poipu area.

An unusually powerful storm that generated high winds about 2,000 miles south of the Cook Islands one week ago is responsible for the south swell, weather service forecaster Jonathan Hoag said. The swell is also affecting west and east shores as it wraps around the islands.

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CRAIG T. KOJIMA / CKOJIMA@STARBULLETIN.COM
A group of surfers headed for their favorite spot at Magic Island yesterday.


The weather service received reports of 10- to 14-foot waves off Maili on Oahu's west coast, 12- to 15-foot waves near Wailua on Kauai's eastern shore and 8- to 10-foot waves at Kahaluu on the Big Island's west side.

The waves were welcome by surfers who had not seen a south swell all summer.

"It's the biggest and best this summer," said Rick Terakina, who took advantage of the big surf off Waikiki. He and many other surfers hit the waves in the afternoon, after work.

Josh Nakano was one of them.

"Not bad, kind of choppy because of the wind," Nakano said.

Kuwena Anderson surfed at Publics off Queen's Surf Beach but did not go too far out where the biggest waves were because of the offshore winds.

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GARY T. KUBOTA / GKUBOTA@STARBULLETIN.COM
On Maui, beachgoers sunbathed a safe distance from the ocean at Kamamole Beach as waves reached 12 feet. In the background is a sailboat that ran aground.


"Outside had some big ones but you cannot catch them, the wind just hold you up," Anderson said.

He said the conditions were similar at Diamond Head.

City lifeguards used two rescue craft to patrol the waters off the South Shore surfing spots and plan to do the same today.

David Kahoaka body-boarded closer to shore, where he said conditions were less than ideal.

"Better than nothing, because it was kind of like nothing all this summer," he said.

Surfers continued to converge on Waikiki late into the afternoon, forcing the city to keep lifeguards there till 6:30 p.m. The city is also adding more lifeguards to Waikiki and Ala Moana today.



Star-Bulletin reporters Gary T. Kubota and
Leila Fujimori contributed to this report.



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