Big surf hits Southern California beaches, raising risk of rip currents

Surfers check out the swell at Doheny State Beach in Dana Point on Tuesday, July16, 2019, as they drive by with their boards on their car. (Photo by Mark Rightmire, Orange County Register/SCNG)

Dan Riesgo took a minute to look out to the ocean Tuesday morning, July 16, to assess the conditions before heading out on his stand-up paddleboard to where big waves were rolling in at Doheny State Beach.

He stretched his paddle out toward the ocean — to where waves were calmer and fewer people were sitting on their surfboards — and pointed out a safer area to his 13-year-old son, Declan Riesgo.

There would be less chance of being clobbered by incoming waves at the Dana Point surf break.

“Before you go in the water, give it a look,” he told his son, carefully watching the motion of the ocean. “Give it five, 10 minutes. So many people rush to get out there. Take a couple minutes to see where the swell is coming from, where the people are coming from, a safe place to paddle out.”

“If there’s any doubt, there’s no doubt. Don’t do it. Assess your capabilities and if there’s any trepidation about it, stay on the beach.”

Dan Riesgo, San Clemente

A beefy south swell brought three- to five-foot waves to Southern California beaches this week, with a run of strong surf that started on Sunday. The surf at south-facing beaches is expected to increase to four- to six-foot with a new swell on Wednesday, before dropping slightly on Thursday. Smaller, two- to three-foot waves are expected by the weekend, according to Surfline.com.

“The surf has been great,” said Riesgo, of San Clemente.

The National Weather Service warned of dangerous rip currents, which are strongest during times of falling tides — from high to low tides, the NWS website reads.  That means ocean novices should stay clear of the ocean when waves are strong.

“Really assess your capabilities,” Dan Riesgo warned. “If there’s any doubt, there’s no doubt. Don’t do it. Assess your capabilities and if there’s any trepidation about it, stay on the beach.”

While waves were a lure for experienced surfers, the weather was a beach bummer on Tuesday, skies staying gray though the day in many coastal towns while inland temperatures neared a scorching 100 degrees.

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