Pacific Disaster Center Fostering Disaster Resilient Communities  

High Surf

Resources

Storms or high winds over the open ocean can generate large waves that trigger high surf in coastal areas. High surf typically impacts the shore in “sets” of three to five waves between lulls. Any wave can be significantly larger than the previous one and can catch beachgoers off guard. Although general forecasts can be made about surf conditions, the timing of individual waves can never be predicted.

Related Hazards

  • Rip currents: Narrow, powerful currents that run perpendicular to the beach and out into the ocean.
  • Rogue waves: Solitary waves that rise to unusual height and mass.
  • Coastal flooding: Flooding that occurs as a result of large, breaking waves.
     

Precautions

  • Use extreme caution when entering the water, and never turn your back on the ocean.
  • Heed ocean safety signs posted at public beaches.
  • Be aware of the risks associated with water-related activities.
  • If you get caught in a rip current, do not panic or swim against the current. Instead, swim sideways parallel to the beach to get out of the narrow current.


Resources

NOAA National Weather Service

NOAA NWS Hawaii Marine Forecasts

Rogue Waves

On rare occasions, rogue waves emerge to haunt some of the most trafficked sea lanes of the world, and ships inevitably encounter some of these wind-generated monsters. The shorelines of the Pacific Islands are also occasionally impacted by rogue waves, which can be extremely dangerous to fishermen and others who frequent the shorelines. Although rogue waves were once dismissed as nautical myths, much like sea monsters, satellite data have now confirmed their existence and are being used to help researchers understand how they develop.