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South Pacific storm sends sizable surf to Huntington and Newport

A surfer rides a wave on the north side of Huntington Beach Pier on Tuesday, May 22.
A surfer rides a wave on the north side of the Huntington Beach Pier on Tuesday. A storm in the South Pacific is expected to send 4- to 6-foot waves or higher to south-facing Orange County beaches through Thursday.
(Scott Smeltzer / Staff Photographer)

Despite the May gray that lingered overhead Tuesday afternoon, surfers braved the chilly waters of Huntington Beach and Newport Beach to take advantage of sizable surf sent to Orange County’s coast from a storm in the South Pacific.

The swell, expected to bring mostly 4- to 6-foot waves, began Tuesday and is expected to last through Thursday at south-facing beaches such as Huntington and Newport’s famed surf spot, the Wedge.

Huntington Beach marine safety Lt. Claude Panis said lifeguards were seeing sets reaching nearly 7 feet Tuesday afternoon.

“Fortunately for us, the weather’s not that nice and there’s not a lot of people on the beach,” Panis said. “Surfers that are out there are getting a pretty good ride.”


Six- to 8-foot sets started rolling in at the Wedge on Tuesday afternoon. Lifeguards and spectators stood along the shore to watch as surfers braved the waves.

Orange County’s south swell is likely the result of a storm system that originated in the South Pacific early this month. The system created a 78-foot wave — the largest ever recorded in the Southern Hemisphere — off the coast of New Zealand about two weeks ago, said Brandt Maxwell, a National Weather Service meteorologist based in San Diego.

Powerful southerly winds from the storm created a swell that made it thousands of miles to Southern California, Maxwell said.

Strong rip currents also showed up along local beaches Tuesday and are expected to linger through Thursday, according to the National Weather Service.


According to lifeguards, 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.

Swimmers without much experience should talk to a lifeguard before getting in the water, Panis said.

Huntington Beach and Newport Beach lifeguard towers are currently staffed, but more guards could be called if ocean conditions worsen, officials said.

Twitter: @HannahFryTCN