WILMINGTON, N.C. (WECT) -Swell from Hurricane Larry has reached our area. The storm is unlikely to directly impact eastern North Carolina, but it has already brought a higher risk of rip currents and high surf to New Hanover County beaches.
With fewer lifeguards on the strand, experts are urging swimmers to stay out of the water through this weekend.
Surfers, paddle boarders and kayakers, however, are taking full advantage of the hurricane swell.
Michael Jones has been watching all the apps and surf cams for days now and decided Thursday morning to make the trip from his home in South Carolina to Carolina Beach in search of epic surf.
The systems swirling in the tropics have created fast rides and big drops, conditions surfers dream about.
“There’s a moment where you’re like ‘ok let’s go’ and then there’s a freefall, and it’s like the Tower of Terror and you trust your board, you trust the wave and you land on your feet and away you go,” Jones said of the feeling you get dropping into a giant wave.
According to Jones, many surfers can quickly spot a rip current and actually utilize them to help paddle past the breakers into the lineup.
Ocean rescue leaders add that surfers and paddle boarders regularly help pull swimmers who get stuck in rip currents to safety before lifeguards can reach the person in distress.
Surfers aren’t the only one keeping a careful watch of the conditions.
Meteorologists have been tracking the growing risk for deadly rip currents and sending warnings to beachgoers for days now.
“Here we are heading into the weekend with nice weather expected and these swells are going to continue. They don’t turn on and off like flipping a switch, this is days worth of wave energy that’s going to be moving to our coast,”said Steven Pfaff, warning coordination meteorologist at the National Weather Service.
Experts aren’t worried so much for surfers, but more for anyone else who gets in the water to swim.
Since the NWS started tracking rip current drowning data in 2000, the Carolinas have seen 175 drowning deaths related to rip currents.
The currents can take a swimmer away from shore at a rate of eight feet a second, and the big waves rolling into our beaches this week is only making the currents worse.
“Not only are they gonna be strong but they’re going to extend for offshore so if you can’t get out of that treadmill you could be carried 100 yards I’m sure it’s even that much harder to get back or to have someone come and get you,” said Pfaff.
Lifeguards are patrolling local beaches with trucks and ATVs, but they’re back to bare bones staffing after the Labor Day holiday and ocean rescue is advising swimmers to stay out of the water in the coming days.
Experienced surfers like Jones, on the other hand, plan on enjoying the rare big surf days while they last.
jones “To be on the beach you can just clearly see it’s over head a couple feet, its beautiful just beautiful,” said Jones.
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