My family and I went Newport Beach in California on Saturday, July 25, 2009 to spend the day at the beach. On our drive down to the ocean, there was an abundance of traffic, which isn’t unusual on a hot summer day when heading to the Newport Beach, but this traffic seemed heavier than usual. Not only were people heading for the ocean to stay cool, but also they were anticipating watching the incredible waves that we don’t normally see too often in Orange County. We landed near the Balboa Pier in Newport Beach, California.
The first thing I noticed was large sand piles that were very close to the parking lot. Then as we were looking for our parking spot, I heard a sound I don’t normally hear and that was the sound of crashing waves that were louder than normal. When we walked up to the beach, I was surprised to see so much white. It looked like someone added soap detergent to the ocean and bubbles were forming. I was amazed at the waves and every wave that came in you could feel a mist of water as you sat on the beach. They were incredible!
The lifeguards really had their work cut out for them today. They were constantly running up and down the beaches making sure that everyone is safe. If you didn’t have fins, they did not want you to go out into the ocean waters. They were constantly reminding the children to only go at knee high and they were constantly checking all individuals. They had a tough job today and they were putting their skills into action, as the rip currents were so strong. There were a few times we saw the waves going up so high that the waves splashed people on the Balboa Pier. A Mom that was sitting next to us was out in the water with her baby who was about 12 months old. The water knocked her and her baby down under the water. They were both safe, but even close to the shore; you can get knocked off your feet.
Then I saw something that I’ve never seen before. A wave that just came out of nowhere onto the shore. The next day, I did some investigating and was surprised to learn that there is something called a “shore break” that is very dangerous and unpredictable. A shore break is a condition when waves break directly onto the shore. Shore breaks are caused by swells traveling through deep water that remain intact until they encounter the shallower water near the shore and then break as a wave.
Shore breaks are very dangerous. Waves can appear very small and harmless, but even a one foot shore break wave can have enough strength to injure bones or pin swimmers to the bottom, and even wash people off the shoreline into the surf zone. They have caused many serious neck and spinal injuries to both inexperienced as well as experienced body surfers and swimmers. Even a small shore break can be dangerous and cause injury or death. This is probably the reason why they wanted children at knee length. There is only one that I saw that day and I am sure if there were plenty of them going on, they would have kept all swimmers out of the ocean.
You can check out a few pictures that I took on that day, but unfortunately, my battery in my camera quickly died and I was only able to capture a few at http://www.associatedcontent.com/slideshow/23850/high_surf_white_water_and_rip_tides.html?cat=49. You can also check out this link at the Balboa Wedge in Newport Beach, which is not too far from Balboa Pier that has some awesome footage. The wedge is a very popular body surfing area, which is located on the south end of the Balboa Peninsula.
It was a crazy weekend. ABC Eyewitness television news reported that in Newport Beach, lifeguards had to rescuer over 400 swimmers and there was one death. According to the Orange County Register, a 50-year-old man died at Hoag Memorial Hospital Presbyterian Hoag Hospital on Friday, July 24, 2009 from being slammed into the rocks from strong current waves. In the video at the Wedge was where this man was and you can see how close the rocks are to him. On Saturday, July 24, 2009, the lifeguards had to rescue over 200 swimmers. It was an exhausting few days for our lifeguards, our heroes.
As the sun went down, we took a walk on the Balboa Pier and watched the waves from above. It was definitely a day to remember and my hats go off to the hard working lifeguards. I really gained a better appreciation of the job that they have and their hard work and dedication and now that I witnessed a shore break, I know what they are and how dangerous they can possibly be.
ABC Television News