Search called off for surfer as waves pound north, west


POSTED: Saturday, November 29, 2008

The Coast Guard searched last night for a surfer reported in trouble on the North Shore as a high-surf warning continued through today for north- and west-facing shores of Niihau, Kauai, Oahu, Molokai and Maui.



;[Preview]Triple Crown Attracts & Boosts

Winter season in Hawaii means big surf action, attracting both locals and tourists.


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  At about 5 p.m. a bystander called the Honolulu Fire Department to report a person in distress, said fire Capt. Earle Kealoha.

About the same time, a surfboard was found on the beach.

Firefighters searched by helicopter until dark, then called off the search at about 6:40 p.m.

The Coast Guard said witnesses reported seeing the surfer separated from his board in 10- to 12-foot surf at about 5:15 p.m.

“;He surfaced twice in between a couple of sets, and they never saw him again,”; said Coast Guard spokeswoman Angela Henderson.

The National Weather Service says surf could rise to between 22 and 28 feet on the North Shore today with some 30-foot waves hitting the outer reefs. Surf along west-facing shores will grow to 10 to 20 feet.

While common in size for the winter season, the waves still present dangerous conditions, said Jim Howe, the city's chief of lifeguard operations.

“;The key to it is, if folks are headed out there, to use extra caution,”; he said. “;The lifeguards are there for everybody's safety, and if you have questions, please ask us.”;

Crowds flocked to the North Shore yesterday to catch the growing waves and the opening of the O'Neill World Cup, the second stage of the Vans Triple Crown of Surfing.

“;It was the ideal size,”; said Randy Rarick, event director for the Vans Triple Crown. “;We had a fantastic crowd ... about 4,000 people.”;

He said surfers had 8- to 12-foot-high waves and superb surfing conditions.

But organizers are worried today's surf could be too big. That could pose a hazard for surfers and require delaying the contest.

“;As long as it's not over 15,”; Rarick said. “;Anywhere from 6 to 15 foot is ideal for competition purposes.”;

He added that if the contest is delayed, visitors would be rewarded with the chance to watch big-wave surfing.

On the North Shore, lifeguards warned 800 people to stay out of the heavy surf and assisted one beachgoer at Sunset Beach, said city Emergency Services Department spokesman Bryan Cheplic.

“;(Today's) going to be the heavy day,”; Cheplic said.

A storm about 1,700 miles north of the islands caused the extra-large waves, said Pat Caldwell, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association surf forecaster.

Two other storms could send swells to Hawaii next week. The second will peak on Tuesday, matching today's heights. The third, expected on Thursday, could be even bigger.

Surf conditions will be less than ideal today with northeasterly tradewinds expected, Caldwell said.

A high-surf warning means that dangerous, battering waves will pound the shoreline, leading to deadly rip currents and dangerous swimming conditions.