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High surf, unpredictable waves hit the Central Coast

Posted at 5:39 PM, Jul 06, 2018
and last updated 2018-07-06 20:39:54-04

Thousands of people are cooling off from the triple digit temperatures by heading to the beach.

While the water may look relaxing, a beach hazards statement has been issued for the Central Coast through Friday night. High surf could create life-threatening conditions in the unpredictable waves.

"The most common thing we see on the beach is lack of situational awareness. We want to make sure people understand the ocean is a very dynamic place," said Battalion Chief Paul Lee with CAL FIRE.

The hazards vary depending on which beach you go to.

In Avila Beach, wind is a factor that staff at Avila Beach Paddlesports keep a close eye on.

"You’re like a human sail with those things," said Vincent Shay, owner of Avila Beach Paddlesports."We watch everybody out here no matter what, the conditions can change pretty quickly. Just yesterday, it went from zero to 35 miles per hour in about 10 minutes, it happens sometimes."

Elsewhere, the surf is anywhere from four to nine feet.

"It’ll look really calm and then all of the sudden, a six to eight foot wave will come at you, what do you do?" said Shay.

CAL FIRE officials say it’s important to know your skill level before venturing out into the ocean.

"People are having a lot of fun and they’re not paying attention to how far they’re being pulled out to sea, and by the time they realize something has gone wrong, they’re too far to come in with their swimming skill set," Chief Lee said.

If you get caught in a rip current, relax and float instead of swimming against the current. If possible, swim in a direction following the shoreline. If you get stuck, face the shoreline and call out for help.

If you’re not confident in your swimming ability or have small children with you, talk with a lifeguard about where the safest spots to swim are. They will also try to keep an eye out for you.

CAL FIRE officials also want to remind the public that drinking alcohol and swimming is just as dangerous as drinking and driving.