Surfers off the Malibu shoreline. Photo by John Schreiber.
Surfers off the Malibu shoreline. Photo by John Schreiber.

A large south-southwest swell generated by a storm off the New Zealand coast was headed toward Southern California and expected to arrive by Saturday afternoon, according to the National Weather Service.

High waves and strong rip currents caused by the swell will result in hazardous swimming conditions throughout the Labor Day weekend and into Tuesday, peaking on Sunday and Monday, the National Weather Service’s Robbie Munroe said.

“The South Pacific is getting winter storms that are so large and so strong that they are developing a swell that travels all the way across the Pacific,” Munroe said.

Particularly at south or southwest facing beaches, people can expect to see 4- to 6-foot waves and 6- to 7-foot sets as the southern storm “brings a lot of energy” to the coast, Los Angeles County Fire Department spokeswoman Lidia Barillas said.

“(The swell) creates a lateral current that can push a person down the beach, as well as a stronger rip current,” Barillas said.

Most rip currents — often resembling small, brown water rapids — last about 30 seconds to a minute, Barillas said.

Barillas said it’s important to avoid panic, stay calm and focus on going with the flow or swimming parallel to the shore rather than fighting against the current.

Swimmers also are encouraged to stay in groups and keep near lifeguard stations.

Despite the hazard, some people are looking forward to larger-than-usual waves.

Among them is Kelli Koller, a surf shop owner and board member of the Long Beach Chapter of the Surfrider Foundation, who said she plans to catch the waves in Huntington Beach or Newport Beach.

“I’m watching the swells,” she said. “It’s definitely going to be a good weekend for surfers.”

— City News Service


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