High surf pounds Southern California beaches


At Seal Beach, some waves hit as high as 14 feet - a gift and a curse all in one.

"Big surf creates big rip currents," said Chief Joe Bailey with Seal Beach Marine Safety.

These conditions are a dream come true for organizers of the Morgan's Wave of the Day Charity and Competition. This type of swell hasn't happened in more than two years at Seal Beach.

Chris Sardelis, a competition organizer, couldn't be happier.

"We're going to see some spectacular surfing and possibly some spectacular wipeouts," said Sardelis.

But with waves so large, Seal Beach lifeguards, whose staffing has been reduced for winter, are working overtime.

"We had a broken ankle. We had a sprained ankle. We had a gash in someone's forehead from a surfboard sceg, so there's all types of different stuff that's come out of this big surf," described Bailey.

Even avid surfers and body boarders decided to skip the giant waves for the safety of the shore.

"Definitely as big as I want them to be, but it's breaking like right on the beach, so it's pretty sketchy," said Shane Goodwin, a Garden Grove resident.

Bailey said winter storm surf that hits Seal Beach is created by storms in the North Pacific.

"So either north of Hawaii or near Alaska. It pushes big surf down this way," Bailey explained.

On Martin Luther King Jr. Day, Seal Beach lifeguards made an unseasonal 12 winter rescues. The waves were nowhere this big then. Lifeguards usually make three or four rescues on average.

"The problem is, this is a different type of surf. It's big surf and you should ask a lifeguard if you are going to set up and go in the water and where to go," Bailey advised.

These conditions are reserved for the pros. The winner of Morgan's Wave of the Day Charity and Competition receives $2,000. There's also a $250 prize for the best wipeout.

Lifeguards will keep a close eye on all the action.

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