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Powerful Surf Strikes Coast; Surfers At Ocean Beach Brave Dangerous Waves

SAN FRANCISCO (KPIX 5) – A powerful swell and big waves didn't stop surfers from testing their skills at Ocean Beach in San Francisco on Monday.

Powerful waves slammed the shoreline as U.S. Coast Guard vessels battled the unrelenting force of nature, one after another while roaring non-stop.

"When you're going under a wave it really sounds like a freight train is washing over you," said Shawn Johnson of San Francisco, one of the surfers who braved the big waves.

Stoked surfers ripped and carved double-overhead sized waves, taking advantage of ideal conditions, but even experienced ones couldn't quite handle Mother Nature at times.

SF Ocean Beach Big Waves
A surfer off Ocean Beach in San Francisco on January 24, 2022. (CBS)

"It can be the most demoralizing place," said Peter Belsen, who drove up all the way from Newport Beach for the gnarly waves and the fierce paddle out past the break.

"You put your head down and grit through it for 20 to 25 minutes, 40 minutes. And you're almost there and then a wave will land on you and push you all the way back in," said Belden.

The National Weather Service and meteorologists, warned curious beachgoers of dangerous sneaker waves.

"You have all this new energy being pushed towards the coastline from this new swell that's being generated," said NOAA meteorologist David King.

They can catch people off-guard, as KPIX 5 cameras were rolling when one man over the weekend nearly got pulled right in.

First responders say if you end up getting swept out into the ocean, the best chance for survival is to swim parallel to the shoreline, instead of fighting the current and trying to swim right back toward the beach.

"If you see a rescuer and are wondering why are they going into the rip current, we actually get that question quite a bit. It helps pull us out there faster. We swim parallel, we come to our victims and we bring them back to safety out of the actual rip current," said SFFD spokesperson Jonathan Baxter.

With gear ready, and surfboards to paddle out, rescue swimmers from San Francisco Fire cruised the shoreline with trucks ready to respond.

Last January, 12 year old Arunai Pruti of Fremont drowned after being swept out in a rip current in San Mateo County. San Francisco firefighters believe people are now more aware of the dangers, but still made nearly 200 rescues last year.

"Even though you're only walking in ankle deep water right now, you're in a rip current. And that is so forceful, it can actually pull you out to sea in ankle deep water," said Baxter.

It's a somber, but life-saving reminder, these waves can be beautiful to watch, and fun for surfers, but deceiving if you're not aware of its power, and unpredictability.

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