HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - A strong northwest swell brought another round of huge and dangerous surf to north and west-facing shores for parts of the state this weekend.
The National Weather Service issued a high surf warning for the north and west shores of Kauai, Niihau, Oahu and Molokai along with north-facing shores of Maui until 6 a.m. Monday.
Wave heights were expected to rise between 20 to 30 feet Sunday in some places. World Surf League officials say this is the kind of North Shore winter swell surfers dream of.
The waves rolled in at the perfect time, allowing WSL officials to call Day two of the Billabong Pipe Masters.
“It’s the Banzai Pipeline. It’s all about the barrel. It’s all about the tube ride,” Marty Thomas, WSL Hawaii & Tahiti Nui Tour Manager, said.
WSL officials added that though conditions weren’t perfect, they were decent. While some of the bigger waves are closing out, there have still been some incredible rides.
“Back in the 60s and 70s, it was all about the Pipeline but then in the late 70s, 80s and 90s in the Kelly Slater-era, it became about the backdoor as well -- the right part of the wave -- and we’re seeing rights and lefts today," Thomas said.
"The Banzai Pipeline — it’s the most famous wave in the world. You can get your feet in the sand, your toes in the sand and actually feel and hear and smell the waves and it’s unlike any other spot around the world,” he added.
It’s that promise that brings visitors from all over the place, visitors like Joseph Brufau of Spain, who went to the North Shore to celebrate his honeymoon and catch the competition.
“I haven’t seen anything like this before so for me it’s like, Wow! I was hoping to see Kelly Slater, but it’s so crowded I can’t see anything," he said. “But to be here for the contest is amazing.”
An estimated 10,000 spectators hit the sand to see some of the best big wave riders tackle Pipeline. For many like Gene Vail, who used to surf Baja and Mexico, it’s their first time.
“I’m here with all of my grandkids, and my daughter and her family.. We’re having a great time,” said Vail.
Meanwhile, North Shore residents are breathing a sigh of relief. Damaging massive swells that slammed them from the north to northwest during hurricane season caused significant coastal erosion, but today's high surf seems to have spared them.
"This kind of swell is more west by southwest and this is what causes the Pipeline to break so nicely into the hot curl and that's why they have the contest," explained Bob Schieve, who has lived along Pupukea Beach for more than 50 years.
“I’m not really worried when it’s breaking in this direction. As a matter of fact, where we’re standing the ocean has brought back seven feet of depth of sand from bedrock to the height we’re standing on.”
Ocean Safety officials want the public to be aware these are expert level conditions.
For beachgoers, the large waves will bring a dangerous shore break and dangerous currents, and entering the water could face significant injury or death. The waves may also sweep across large portions of beaches, which could sweep people out into the water.
The waves may also impact north and west-facing harbor entrances., making it dangerous to navigate harbor channels. It’s always important to heed the warnings from lifeguards: When it doubt, don’t go out.
And if you’re headed to the North Shore, plan for limited parking and a lot of traffic.
The swell is likely to begin decreasing Sunday evening. Monday morning, officials will likely be able to call the third and final day of competition for the Billabong Pipe Masters.
As for The Eddie, contest organizers said the swell was insufficient for the green light to be given this time around.
A high surf advisory is also in effect for the north-facing shores of Hawaii Island where waves are expected to rise to 12 to 18 feet.