High surf expected along Orange County’s coast through Sunday

A surfer rides a wave on the north side of the Newport Pier on Wednesday.
A surfer rides a wave on the north side of the Newport Pier on Wednesday. Waves are expected to be as high as 9 feet near the Wedge, beginning Thursday.
(Andrew Turner)

Where experienced surfers may see an opportunity, other residents of coastal Orange County may instead be looking for sandbags as a high surf advisory was issued by the National Weather Service for the final weekend of the year.

The surf advisory, issued on the agency’s social media channels Tuesday, warns of waves that may reach 8 to 9 feet in northern Orange County in addition to rip tides, dangerous swimming conditions and minor coastal flooding in low-lying areas. Peaks for swells will be on Thursday and Saturday.

Meteorologists said San Diego County will receive the brunt of the high surf, but that does not preclude Orange County from seeing waves of up to 10 feet near the Wedge in Newport Beach.

The sun attempts to break through the clouds on an overcast afternoon at Newport Pier on Wednesday.
The sun attempts to break through the clouds on an overcast afternoon at Newport Pier on Wednesday. A high surf warning will go into effect for Orange County on Thursday morning.
(Andrew Turner)

“There are several storms in the North Pacific that are going to generate mature wave sets that are going to hit the coast from the west,” Philip Gonsalves, a meteorologist with the San Diego station, said Wednesday. “Now a lot of times, these wave sets hit Southern California from the northwest. We don’t get the maximum energy from the waves because they have to come around Point Conception. When the waves are coming from northwest, we are a little bit protected. But, these waves [this weekend] are coming from the west, so most if not all of the energy is going to reach the beaches of Orange County and mostly … San Diego County.”

Gonsalves noted the wave sets that will be seen in the coming days are mature swells formed over longer periods. Wave heights depend on the period of time a wave is moving over open water and current estimates place this weekend’s 8- to 9-foot swells over periods of 15 to 17 seconds.

“But, a lot of that energy isn’t going to reach Orange County because of the orientation of the shoreline,” Gonsalves said.


That doesn’t mean that ocean conditions won’t still be dangerous this weekend, and Gonsalves acknowledged this kind of surf was what surfers “lived” for.

“The experienced surfers are going to get out there and have the time of their lives, but everyone else needs to stay away from the water’s edge,” he said.

A sea gull dips its feet in the sand near Newport Pier on Wednesday.
(Andrew Turner)

The city of Newport Beach mobilized its efforts on Wednesday, issuing a statement to residents warning them of the high surf projected at the west-lying beaches between the Santa Ana River and Newport Pier. City officials confirmed that the Balboa Pier sand berm is being replenished and that additional sand berms are being built where needed. City crews will be out to pump water and monitor water levels.

Residents can pick up sandbags from the city’s corporation yard at 592 Superior Ave. on Thursday from 7 a.m. to 3 p.m. and on Friday from 7 a.m. to noon.

High surf events are typical for this time of year, according to Gonsalves, who said most winters see at least one to two.

“Stay away from the water’s edge,” Gonsalves repeated. “Stay off the rocks. I can’t tell you how many times we’ve had casualties because people want to get a close look at the big waves and get out there on this big rocks. Stay behind the wall, use a camera with a long lens, but stay away from the water’s edge. It’s dangerous.”

Surfers dot the water at Newport Pier following reports of high-surf activity for the area on Wednesday.
(Andrew Turner)