Massive waves up to 50 feet pound Hawaiian Islands

Photo of Amy Graff

Waves at Waimea Bay clocking in around 20 to 25 feet at 6:45 a.m. on Oahu, Hawaii, on Jan. 11, 2023.

Waves at Waimea Bay clocking in around 20 to 25 feet at 6:45 a.m. on Oahu, Hawaii, on Jan. 11, 2023.

screenshot via Surfline

A storm-whipped Pacific Ocean is sending monster surf to the Hawaiian Islands on Wednesday, with wave heights up to 50 feet at some beaches. 

“It looks like it’s the biggest swell of the season so far, but there’s still a lot of the winter left,” Genki Kino, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service, told SFGATE.

Kino said the huge swell is the result of a “hurricane force low” that was located northeast of the islands and tracked eastward toward California.

“That’s what generated the surf … the low is already located far northeast of the islands,” Kino said. “… It’s another system about to hit California.”

The weather service issued a high surf warning that’s in effect until 6 p.m. Thursday local time, though wave heights are expected to peak sometime between 3 and 4 p.m. Wednesday. The warning is in effect for north- and west-facing shores of Niihau, Kauai, Oahu and Molokai as well as north-facing shores of Maui and west-facing shores of the Big Island. A less severe advisory was issued for west-facing shores of Maui and Lanai, and the north-facing shores of Hawaii Island and is also in effect through 6 p.m. Thursday.

Waves at Pipeline clocking in around 18 to 20 feet at 7:39 a.m. on Oahu, Hawaii, on Jan. 11, 2023.

Waves at Pipeline clocking in around 18 to 20 feet at 7:39 a.m. on Oahu, Hawaii, on Jan. 11, 2023.

screenshot via Surfline

Kino said famous big surf spot Peahi, aka Jaws, on Maui was seeing 50-foot waves. Waimea Bay on Oahu is also likely to experience 50-foot waves.

He warned that beachgoers who want to view the surf should stay well away from the water. Never turn your back on the ocean.

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