CHUN'S REEF, NORTH SHORE, OAHU (HawaiiNewsNow) - It's no coincidence the Eddie Aikau Big Wave contest hasn't run for the past two winters. That's how long the 'La Nina' has been in place keeping our winter swells relatively mild, but things are changing.
La Nina is out as a different climate pattern develops over the Pacific Ocean.
"What we are seeing now is a transition to what we forecast to be an El Nino year, a weak El Nino year. El Nino is the opposite of La Nina," said Michael Cantin, NWS Warning Coordination meteorologist.
Warmer than usual ocean temps in the equatorial Pacific will produce bigger swells in the coming months, just as about 3 times the beach goers gravitate to the North Shore.
"We brought them here today, to Chun's to try another break," said Campbell Isherwood, a visitor from Australia.
The surf is small enough for beginners today, but by early next week, a new northwest swell could produce the season's first High Surf Warning.
With winter swells just around the corner, lifeguards are taking preventative actions so they can keep rescues at a minimum.
"These waves are big enough to kill you," said Jim Howe, Operations Chief, Ocean Safety and Lifeguard Services.
As always, Howe is directing his crews to be pro-active to approach beach goers directly to make sure they know the dangers.
"We are trying to assess your experience level and determine whether or not if it is appropriate for you to go to this beach or suggest another beach," said Capt. John Hoogsteden, Ocean Safety & Lifeguard Services.
"Going up against waves, you know, 5 feet to 25 feet can be a big challenge, depending where they break shallow or deep," said Kirk Ziegler, North Shore lifeguard.
This winter, Ocean Safety is also adding a fifth mobile response team to cover emergencies from Ka'ena Point to Kahuku Point.
Last year, Oahu's lifeguards rescued 413 people and helped nearly 200 with serious first-aid.
To prevent a bad day at the beach, check on the current conditions at www.hawaiibeachsafety.org