Lifeguards rescue 40 swimmers as big waves hit

Laguna Beach lifeguards rescued 40 swimmers last weekend as big swells hit the coast.

The largest waves occurred Friday — sets averaged 6 to 8 feet, but occasionally topped 9 feet, Marine Safety Officer Joshua Bynum said. Saturday sets averaged 4 to 6 feet, but clouds kept crowds at bay.

"With swells like that, if the weather was good, the number [of rescues] could have gone up to 150 or 200," Bynum said.

There were no serious injuries or medical emergencies associated with the rescues, which were evenly split between surfline breaks and swimmers caught in riptides from Friday through Sunday, Bynum said.

A rip current pulled one woman nearly 300 yards offshore near Brooks Street beach on Friday, he said.

Near the shore, waves break and can pull people into the ocean, according to Bynum.

Treasure Island (below the Montage resort) and Crescent Bay saw greater numbers of rescues than other spots due to more beachgoers flocking to those locations, according to Bynum.

Even with the greater concentration of swimmers at Treasure Island, the number of beachgoers throughout Laguna this weekend was less than what good weather and big waves sometimes bring.

"The Saturday crowd was maybe 15,000, where on a good weekend we might see 40,000 to 60,000 people on the beach," Bynum said.

Laguna Beach is still in pre-summer staffing levels.

Eleven of the 34 lifeguard towers were staffed Saturday and Sunday, while just four had lifeguards on duty on Friday, Bynum said.

"It's what we're budgeted for," he said.

All towers will be staffed for summer beginning June 22, Bynum said.

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