SAN FRANCISCO (KPIX) -- Search and rescue crews were trying to find a woman who was swept into the ocean at Pescadero State Beach Sunday afternoon. Officials say she and a man were fishing on the rocks, when a powerful wave knocked them into the water. A witness helped bring the man to shore but the woman was pulled under. The Coast Guard is using a helicopter to help with the search.
Earlier in the day, a San Jose man was swept into the water while scrambling along the bluffs at Point Bonita in the Marin headlands. He has been missing since about 2:30 p.m. and a Coast Guard search was still underway as of 6 o'clock Sunday evening.
Early Sunday morning, the National Weather Service put out an alert for high surf on Bay Area beaches, warning people to stay away. So, of course, people flocked to the area to see what was happening.
The ocean was angry, awakened by strong storms far out to sea. The weather service warned of 23- to 28-foot waves and people flocked to Lands End to watch them roll in from a safe distance.
That included 10-year old Talia Hurst-Hiller, her little brother Rafi and his friend Felix.
"It looks really cool until you go out really close to it and you realize how big the waves actually are," Talia said. "And then you feel really small."
Adam Frymoyer traveled from San Carlos to view the crashing waves. He's an amateur surfer and has been watching the big-wave surfing going on at Mavericks for the last few days, including a run by pro surfer Peter Mel that some are calling "the wave of the decade." Sunday, Frymoyer was astounded to see waves breaking out on the horizon.
"I mean, it's breaking out, that's almost, what, half a mile, a mile out there?" he marveled. "That tells you that there's so much energy in that wave, it's just hitting that bottom and going. It's pretty amazing. I haven't seen that before."
At Ocean Beach in San Francisco, locals became tourists as they walked the strand, some moving closer to feel the power of the surf. There were warnings about rip currents and sneaker waves and one of those surprised experienced beachgoer Randy Girer.
"I see a wave coming in so I back up," Girer said. "Then I see another one coming in so I'm backing up more and then I turn around and I'm walking fast and then I'm running full speed!"
The weather service says in conditions of high surf, when you think you're safe, back up even more. Last week, a father and his two children were killed, swept off a beach in Sonoma County. Those who live near the sea, like Moss Beach resident David Millman, understand the danger.
"When there's 24-foot waves, which there were that day -- there are just days when you don't walk along the ocean. You don't," he said. "And you don't turn your back on it, certainly."
for more features.