Bay Area beach goers beware of big waves as coast still feels Hurricane Fabio's impact

A warm Bay Area weekend will send many people to local beaches, but they should beware of the waves.

The California coast is still feeling the effects of Hurricane Fabio and it's creating some high surf. The south-facing beaches, in particular, started to experience a high swell starting Thursday. It will gradually taper off through the weekend. 

As usual, hordes of surfers grabbed their boards.

"I mean it's summer, so you take what you can get, and it's a south swell," said Mitch Fricker, who drove from Sebastopol to Bolinas to catch some Friday evening waves.

Fricker usually surfs at Sonoma County's Goat Rock, closer to home, but he hoped Bolinas would be better. "I want it to be as big as it can get, like 10-foot, or 10-plus," said Fricker. 

At Stinson Beach, two lifeguards were in their tower keeping their eyes trained on the busy shoreline.
They were aware the weekend would be warmer, and even more crowded, and not all visitors would be aware of rip currents and sneaker waves.

"It's a beautiful day and it's going to get better this weekend,” said Antoine Donnediue, playing in the surf at Stinson, with his 2-year-old daughter Heloise. "It's important for her to learn a sense of danger but also to be comfortable around this, because it's a very natural element of our environment." 

From Sonoma to Monterey, beaches are getting churned by the remnants of Fabio, south of Baja, which was a hurricane before weakening to a tropical storm. 

And last weekend, a 47-year-old Pleasanton mom drowned at a Half Moon Bay beach. Aarti Senthilvel was part of a large group -- adults and children -- who were wading in shallow water when waves knocked them down and they were swept away by the undertow. 

Her two children survived. 

Turning your back, taking your eyes of the water, is risky any time of year. At Stinson, Mill Valley dad Troy Rothwell was keeping close watch on three teenagers riding surf and boogie boards, ready to pull them in if the waves get too big. 

"Maybe another two or three feet, but right now it's pretty good for them," said Rothwell. "Sometimes we go down to the water, if a bigger set that comes in or we see something coming in. We just want to be down by the shore in case they get dragged underneath."

Rothwell’s 15-year-old daughter Quinn said she was noticing the difference in the waves. "Definitely rougher, the rip is really bad," she said. “The riptide comes in suddenly so you never know if it’s going to pull you."

And Quinn makes sure to be aware of her companions. "We've gotten pulled out a couple of times and had to help each other out," she said.  

The advice: should someone find themselves being pulled out to sea: relax or swim parallel to the beach until the rip allows you to get back in to shore. Children should always be watched especially closely. 

"There was a little kid who got away from his mom, and too close to the water," said Rothwell. “And my wife actually got up to make sure he didn't get swept away because you never know when there's going to be a sneaker wave."