Massive waves from Tropical Storm Marie could contribute to dangerous conditions on local beaches, even after swells dissipate.
Stronger-than-normal rip currents caused by storm conditions will likely be present at local beaches for the next two weeks, said Newport Beach lifeguard Battalion Chief Jim Turner.
"The ocean floor gets turned up during storms, so rip currents become stronger than normal," he said. "It takes a week or two for the ocean floor to fill in and become smooth again."
Turner advises beachgoers to be cautious when entering the water, even after the waves return to their normal size.
The size of the surf had gone down considerably in certain areas of the coast by Thursday morning, but waves continued to reach 18 to 25 feet at the Wedge and The Point in Newport Beach, Turner said.
The high-surf advisory issued by the National Weather Service will remain in effect until 8 p.m. Friday.
Groups of people continued to flock to the beach throughout the day Thursday to check out the monster swells.
"People debate about whether these waves are the biggest we've ever seen or the biggest we've seen in 20 years," Turner said. "This is a dramatic representation of Mother Nature for everyone. It's entertaining."
For lifeguards, the waves brought a mixture of excitement and concern.
Newport Beach lifeguards have rescued nearly 300 distressed swimmers from the water since the weekend.
Even as the waves subside, rescue workers are staying on alert. They anticipate even more rescues will be made over the holiday weekend, Turner said.
Authorities urge families heading to the beach to keep an eye on surf reports, which often detail areas of the beach safe for children.
However, lifeguards recommend that only highly experienced swimmers enter the water while storm conditions persist.
"The surf is powerful and causes strong rip currents that can easily pull a swimmer along the shoreline and out to sea," said Chief Lifeguard Rob Williams. "To avoid serious injuries, swimmers should avoid areas with piers, rocks and jetties."
Any swimmer caught in a rip current should stay calm and swim parallel to the shore until they are out of the current, Williams said.
Visitors are encouraged to bike, walk or use public transportation to avoid traffic delays on the Balboa Peninsula over the next several days, according to a city press release.
In Huntington Beach, the volatile surf knocked down a red marker on the east jetty, which is used to direct boaters into the Anaheim Bay section of the harbor, said Janet du Monceau de Bergendal, watch commander with the harbor patrol.
The Coast Guard will send crews to repair the marker over the next few days. In the meantime, harbor officials urge boaters to use extreme caution when entering or exiting the harbor, as high tide could push water levels over the edge of the jetty making it less visible.
Powerful waves continued to pound the shoreline off Main Street in Huntington Beach Thursday afternoon. Waves near the Huntington Beach pier were coming in between 8 and 10 feet.
Huntington Beach City lifeguard Rodolfo Nieto spotted two swimmers caught in a fast-paced current that was sending them straight for the pier, or what he calls "the meat grinder."
Nieto grabbed his fins, jumped off the tower and raced down the beach into the water to pull the man and his son to safety. The task was just one of the hundreds of preventative actions, or partial rescues that don't require rescue teams to pull the swimmer to shore, that lifeguards have completed over the past week.
"Currents can send people from 19th Street to the pier in minutes," Neito said. "The water just looks angry."
Huntington Beach City lifeguards have made roughly 70 rescues since Tuesday, officials said.
Because Huntington is a south-facing beach, it takes the brunt of the swell, Nieto said, making it difficult for even the most advanced surfers to brave the waves.
While on vacation with her parents from Salem, Ore., Ashley Browner, decided to stop by the beach to check out the waves that had made such big news.
Like many beachgoers wary of the large surf, Browner decided to stay on the sand.
"We walked on the beach and were totally shocked. It's crazy," she said.