Three major storms to bring in serious surf

Three major storms brewing in the dead center of the Southern Pacific are expected to make their presence felt today, producing high surf that could drum up waves as high as 10 feet at the Wedge and 5- to 7-footers elsewhere along the Balboa Peninsula.

Translation: If you don't know how to swim well, be careful on where you decide to take a dip.

On the other hand, if you're a die-hard surfer or bodyboarder, then grab your boards and fins and compete with the rest to ride the monster swells, which have been far and few between this summer.

"It's supposed to peak on Wednesday," said Jim Turner, lifeguard battalion chief for Newport Beach. "By Friday, everything should subside, but then it's going to pick up again just in time for the weekend."

Turner said beachgoers should expect yellow flags Tuesday morning, followed most likely by red flags in the early afternoon. The warning system, like traffic signals, are red, yellow and green.

And yet, because the peninsula and Southern California's coastlines are unusual in all their curves and winding topography, there are times when there can be huge waves at the Wedge or 15th Street and much smaller waves between 21st and 30th streets.

It just all depends on Mother Nature, Turner said, adding that swimmers should ask the lifeguards where the waves are if they're actually looking for them but can't find them. Chances are, they're just a mile down the road.

And, as in all high surf warnings and major storms thousands of miles away, the end result is something called a rip current — essentially a river of water that flows out to sea because it has nowhere else to go once it washes ashore.

Rip currents can be extremely dangerous and anybody caught in one has a hard time swimming back to shore, Turner said, adding that it's akin to swimming up a raging river.

"That's why we always tell people to swim parallel to shore," Turner said. "If you try to swim against the current, you'll just get exhausted and you'll never get back."

As for the water temperatures in the ocean, they're expected to remain unseasonably cold, in the high 50s and low 60s. It's something that's been a blessing in disguise, Turner said, adding that the lifeguards haven't been as busy this summer because the total number of rescues are down.

"When the water is cold, people usually stay close to shore and they're not in the water very long," Turner said.

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