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Lifeguards rescue hundreds as big waves and heat lure large beach crowds

Lifeguards rescue hundreds as big waves and heat lure large beach crowds
A body boarder soars without his board over a wave in Newport Beach on Monday. Large waves and strong rip currents continue through Tuesday at south-facing beaches. (Allen J. Schaben / Los Angeles Times)

Lifeguards got a taste of the coming summer season the past several days as sizable surf and warm weather lured crowds to the coast in Huntington Beach, Newport Beach and Laguna Beach.

A Southern Hemisphere swell that arrived at area beaches Saturday continued Tuesday, bringing high surf and dangerous rip currents, according to the National Weather Service.

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The large waves, paired with big crowds, created a busy situation for lifeguards, who made hundreds of rescues.

Waves at most south-facing beaches were roughly 4 to 8 feet Tuesday.

The famed Wedge surf spot in Newport Beach had waves reaching 12 feet Tuesday morning, according to lifeguards. Beachgoers lined the shore to watch as surfers, and later body surfers, charged into the churning ocean in hopes of catching a massive wave.

Newport Beach lifeguards made 196 rescues Saturday and Sunday and gave warnings about the surf to more than 2,400 people, said lifeguard Officer Brandon Hodding.

“For this time of year and this kind of surf, those are pretty normal numbers,” Hodding said. “But on a typical day, we have about 20 rescues.”

A surfer rides a wave in Newport Beach on Monday.
A surfer rides a wave in Newport Beach on Monday. (Allen J. Schaben / Los Angeles Times)

Laguna Beach lifeguards rescued 192 people Saturday and Sunday and gave warnings to nearly 4,000 people, officials said.

Huntington Beach guards made 98 rescues Saturday and Sunday and gave warnings to more than 3,000 people, said marine safety Lt. Claude Panis.

“The summer season is officially here,” he said.

The surf is expected to taper off Wednesday, according to the National Weather Service.

Laguna Beach Marine Safety Chief Kevin Snow said beachgoers should always swim near a lifeguard, check with officials about the day’s ocean conditions before entering the water, swim with a friend and obey posted warnings.

Swimmers who find themselves stuck in a rip current should stay calm, raise their hands to alert lifeguards and, if possible, swim parallel to the shore out of the current, lifeguards say.

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