HONOLULU, Hawaii – Large surf kept many onlookers at bay over the Thanksgiving Day holiday along beaches of the country’s fiftieth state as a combination of storm systems over the Pacific produced gigantic swells.
Forecast models showed waves reaching between 20-30 feet, but heights likely reached much higher, as forecasters said 50-foot waves were possible on some north and west-facing beaches of Hawaii.
Photos taken on Friday along Waimea Bay on the island of O’ahu showed plenty of surfers taking advantage of possibly the largest waves of the year.
Surf experts say the existence of a weather pattern known as El Niño can lead to an increased frequency of events that produce large surf.
"While every El Niño is a little bit different, and it can’t guarantee enhanced surf, it does tend to produce larger-than-normal surf in the North Pacific," Kevin Wallis, a forecasting director at Surfline, previously told FOX Weather. "So, areas like Hawaii and California tend to see larger-than-normal surf, especially during moderate-to-strong El Niño."
The National Weather Service issued High Surf warnings and High Surf advisories for many coastal communities.
Meteorologists warned of 20 to 30 feet surf on north-facing shores and 18 to 22 feet on west-facing beaches through the weekend.
"Expect very strong breaking waves and powerful currents. Waves breaking in channel entrances may make navigating the channels dangerous," NWS meteorologists said.
The large waves were credited for overwash that led to coastal flooding during periods of high tide.
Authorities also reported that a 42-year-old swimmer from California disappeared during the week of rough surf.
The Maui Fire Department said it made the difficult decision to suspend search operations after finding no signs of the man who disappeared in the area of the "Cliff House" in Kapalua on November 20.
Crews searched by both air and water for the swimmer after he jumped from rocks into the ocean, which was considered to be "very rough" at the time.
Several other rescues are reported to have occurred during the Thanksgiving week, but there were no other reports of missing individuals.
The NWS anticipates wave heights will drop below advisory levels by Tuesday.