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Dangerous conditions threaten surfers

July 25, 2009 12:00:00 AM PDT
Even the most experienced swimmers and surfers were overwhelmed by the big waves and unpredictable currents, which have already claimed one life.Towering waves crashed into the shore at The Wedge in Newport Beach, attracting surfers and body boarders. Some faced frightening moments. 15-year-old surfer Cameron Faris was pulled from the water, shaken after a massive set of waves knocked him off his board.

"I've surfed this wave a lot but this is probably the biggest I've surfed and it just scared the hell out of me," said Faris.

"We had a couple of friends here who are lifeguards. As soon as they saw him in distress they knew what to do and he knew the hand signals to give," said his mother, Judy Faris. "Once his arm went up they knew he needed help and they went out and helped him."

Minutes later lifeguards came to the rescue of bodysurfer who was overwhelmed by the churning waves.

"I just got out of breath. It was a good swim until you get stuck under the whitewater. It holds you under pretty good," said Clyde Barr.

Lifeguards came to the aid of another man who was having trouble getting out of the surf.

Since yesterday the Wedge has been hit by waves of 15 to 20 feet. A 50-year-old body surfer died when he was slammed into rocks by the waves on Friday. Newport Beach lifeguards rescued 381 people on Friday alone.

Surfers going into the water on Saturday said the dangerous waves and rip currents made conditions rough.

"It's kind of out of control. It's just like a big washing machine out there. The current is really bad and it's just really tiring," said Shaun Sanson who was out bodyboarding.

Most of the hundreds who gathered at the beach Saturday were content to watch the experts and take photos.

Lifeguards said unless you are very experienced in the water it's better to stay on shore.

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