High Surf Means Potentially Dangerous Rip Currents for Ocean Swimmers

A high surf advisory is in effect through Saturday morning in Orange and San Diego counties

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    NEWSLETTERS

    Lifeguards are keeping their eyes on rip currents, which caused a man to drown last weekend in Hermosa Beach. Lifeguards expect many beach goers to find themselves caught in rip currents this summer, and are offering up tips to get to shore safely. Hetty Chang reports from Huntington Beach for the NBC4 News at 5 p.m. on June 5, 2013.

    A high-surf advisory issued by the National Weather Service for beaches in Orange and San Diego counties is expected to last through Saturday morning with peak waves arriving Thursday and Friday.

    A long-period south swell arrived Wednesday, according to the National Weather Service. Expert surfers planned to paddle out early Thursday after hearing that waves would reach 10 to 15 feet in some popular surfing spots, like The Wedge in Newport Beach.

    "I think everyone is waiting for that big south (swell) to hit so we can catch some big waves," said Dustin Foelber, who has been surfing since he was 5 years old.

    While the conditions may be perfect for expert surfers, this week's advisory creates a big concern for lifeguards.

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    "The bigger the surf, the stronger the currents will be," said Elisabeth Bray, a state lifeguard peace officer.

    Rip currents are strong, narrow currents that can move swimmers away from shore as fast as 8 feet per second, according to experts.

    Daniel Thorne, 21, drowned at Hermosa Beach earlier this week when large waves pulled him into deep water.

    "It can lift you off your feet in a moment's notice," Bray said. "Rip currents can actually travel faster than the speed of an Olympic swimmer. So Michael Phelps, if he were to get stuck in a riff, even he would even have a difficult time swimming back in."

    Greg Carter, a lifeguard at Huntington Beach, was keeping a close eye on a group of high school students Wednesday.

    "I'm looking for obvious signs, meaning someone swimming with a poor stroke," Carter said.

    Lifeguards on Bolsa Chica and Huntington Beach perform between 3,000 and 4,000 rescues every year, according to Jeff David, state chief lifeguard. Most are rip current-related.

    "The best thing you can do, is don't panic," Bray said. "And swim parallel to shore outside the rip."

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