Surfers were out in force yesterday chasing what may prove to be the best swell of the season.
High surf warnings and a flood advisory were issued Tuesday, and surf as high as 17 feet was reported along parts of the Santa Barbara coast. Meanwhile, the National Weather Service in Oxnard predicted waves would reach 10 to 12 feet high along the Central Coast today and would continue to do so until Friday morning. Santa Barbara County also warned that rough waters could erode beach lines and cautioned people against entering the ocean.
For surfers, however, the warnings had the opposite effect than intended. Surfers from throughout the area, including many UCSB students, welcomed the waves despite the potential hazards. Predicted swells of 14 feet drew hundreds of surfers to campus beaches throughout the day.
As of 5 p.m. Wednesday night, more than 70 people were in the water at Campus Point, with similar numbers crowding nearby Devereux Point.
Ian Chiles, a first-year mechanical engineering major, said waves at Campus Point were the biggest he and his friends had ever surfed.
“We’re definitely beginners, but we did fine,” Chiles said. “[The waves] are big if you go out to where they’re big, like Campus Point. I think it was probably head-high.”
While the swell was undoubtedly large, high winds — and expectations — tempered the experience for some.
“It was mediocre,” first-year biology major Harrison Bernsen said. “I thought it would be better, but it wasn’t. There was too much wind.”
Because of rough conditions in the water, county officials have warned swimmers, surfers and others to stay out of the water. Potential flooding and coastal erosion have also kept officials on alert.
However, William Boyer, communications director for Santa Barbara County, said there had been almost no damage to the coastline as of Wednesday evening.
“It appears that the county escaped any significant damage or soil erosion,” Boyer said. “Our emergency responders are all keeping an eye on the situation.”
— Garik Hauer contributed to this article.