Hawaii's north coast beaches brace for monster waves reaching 30-40 feet into Friday

The swell originates from a powerful 965mb storm centered some 1,500 miles north of Hawaii Thursday, set to impact California on Saturday. Rapidly rising surf will reach warning levels of 40 feet along most north-facing shores.

A sizable northwest swell will continue to pound the northern shores of Hawaii Friday, potentially resulting in waves up to 30-40 feet in height, the FOX Forecast Center warns.

The swell originated from a powerful 965 mb storm that was centered some 1,500 miles north of Hawaii Thursday, set to impact California on Saturday.

High Surf Warnings remain in effect until 6 p.m. Friday for the north and west-facing shores of Niihau, Kauai, Oahu, Molokai, and north-facing shores of Maui. Original forecasts predicted waves as high as 50 feet were possible during the period but forecasts have since dropped to 40 feet for the rest of Friday.

"This is life-threatening conditions out here. It’s not just an average high surf day," Ocean Safety Lt. Kerry Atwood told KHON-TV.  "Therefore, Ocean Safety is coordinating with the Department of Emergency Management providing them with current time shoreline updates and they will be assisting us should we need to close roads or beach parks." 

The surf peaked late Thursday on Kauai and Oahu on Thursday night, with the largest waves expected on Maui and the Big Island on Friday.  For Kona and Kohala, surf is expected to increase to 12 to 16 feet from Friday into Saturday.


People should expect ocean water surging and sweeping across beaches, coastal benches, and lava flows, creating the potential for impacts to coastal properties and infrastructure, including roads, according to the FOX Forecast Center. 

In addition, powerful longshore and rip currents will be present at most beaches. Large breaking waves and strong currents may impact harbor entrances and channels causing challenging boat handling.

Lifeguards put up caution tape across the north shore to keep people away from the rising swell, KHON reported. 

"Parents with small children or people who are unfamiliar with these types of conditions, to be very wary of where you stand and where you park your car, where you set your children down because it only takes a moment for the worst thing to happen," Ocean Safety lifeguard Joey Cadiz told KHON-TV.

Honolulu Ocean Safety made four rescues on Thursday at Sunset and Haleiwa, and made over 1,000 preventative actions, according to KHON-TV.


The local weather office typically issues between 11 and 12 High Surf Warnings annually. So far, in 2024, they have issued five.

Historically, it is the time in late January to mid-February when the north shores of Hawaii see their biggest waves.

"This is the time of year that they are ready for it," FOX Weather Meteorologist Britta Merwin said. "Some of the biggest surf contests happen during the winter because of the swells that come in across the Pacific. The reason why it is so good is because there's nothing to disrupt the swell."

Friday's monster surf will diminish later Friday into Saturday. But with the storm track remaining active in the Pacific Ocean, additional periods of heavy surf are expected into the next week, according to the NWS.

Another fetch of large surf is expected along Hawaii's northern facing shores Saturday night into Sunday that may require renewed High Surf Warnings, the NWS said. Swell will then gradually diminish to start the week, with a more moderate period of swells and high surf possible for the middle of next week. 

"We always have these big swells that come in the forecast, and then we have rogue waves that happen," Merwin said. "The danger is real. There are signs up, so pay attention to the signs. You don't want to get too close. Give a little bit of space and enjoy it from a distance."