Bay Area Coastlines Face Dangerous Waves

Sophia Acevedo, Staff Writer

A high surf advisory was in effect from Jan. 10 to Jan. 12 from Sonoma County to Monterey County as Bay Area coastlines face riptides, sneaker waves, and breaking waves reaching 20 to 25 feet. Weather forecasters at CBS News warn that the larger tides and riptides bring colder water than usual to shores. The National Weather surface cautions that these high-surf events lead to “cold water” drownings every year, including people struck by large waves and pulled into the water. 

“The surf advisory has affected me a bit because I’m not quite as advanced enough to surf the big waves so I haven’t gone out in awhile. I know the swells have been really big and there’s even been a couple recent surfing accidents recently, so I think it’s best that inexperienced surfers stay out of the water,” junior and co-founder of the Surfing Club, Joe Smith said. 

Dec. 20, native surfer Haruwn Wesley died due to injuries sustained while bodyboarding at Fort Point near the Golden Gate Bridge. Amy Graff at the SF Gate adds that the waves were reaching up to 20 feet and despite years of experience in the waters, Wesley could not maintain control. Meteorologist Mike Nico with ABC7 News explains that the surf conditions are very strong in the Bay Area right now, even for experienced surfers like Wesley, and they may continue into January and return after the surf advisory ends. 

After analyzing data from the National Weather Service, staff writer Paul McHugh from the SF Gate concludes that Ocean Beach in San Francisco is California’s most deadly beach. “Lateral currents help give Ocean Beach a special potential for hazard. The beach directly faces prevailing westerly swells and winds, the water is cold, and the coarse-grained sand is well- suited to making a steep beach,” Robert Wiegel, a coastal specialist and professor emeritus of engineering at UC Berkeley, said. 

Nico suggests that surfers may want to avoid Ocean Beach and take stronger precautions in the waters as the strength of rip currents increases and water temperature plummets. “Don’t let the light storms on the Storm-Impact-Scale fool you. Do not turn your back on the water. Do not let your animals off their leashes. Do not go out on any of the jetties or the rocks, just stay away as far as you can and admire the energy from a safe distance,” Nico said.

“I’ve heard about the people who’ve lost their lives due to big swells in the Bay Area, like the cases in Ocean Beach. I’ve yet to surf at Ocean Beach, but I have swam there and I can definitely feel a strong current. It’s pretty scary and I think the bigger swells attract more surfers because the waves are so big, but it ends up being too much and wipes them out,” junior Luke Kelly said.