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The Honolulu Advertiser

Posted on: Wednesday, December 26, 2001

'Humongous' waves forecast

By Tanya Bricking
Advertiser Staff Writer

Even calm days on the ocean can be dangerous, and with a wild day expected today on the North Shore, there's ample reason for extra caution.

A drowning yesterday off Waikiki made for a somber Christmas for beachgoers who saw the aftermath. Today, lifeguards will be urging all but the experts to stay out of the big surf on the North Shore.

Hawai'i's most treacherous coastline is expected to live up to its reputation today, with surf as high as 30 feet.

Surf News Network Hawai'i calls the forecast waves "humongous."

Lifeguards call it just plain dangerous.

A high-surf warning is in effect for north- and west-facing shores, where yesterday's 3- to 6-foot surf was expected to increase to 10 to 15 feet overnight and to 20 to 30 feet by today, some of the biggest waves so far this winter.

Lifeguards urge North Shore tourists to stay beach-bound and leave the surf to seasoned professionals.

Boaters at Wai'anae Boat Harbor should be cautious of waves breaking at harbor entrances, and a north swell could cause moderate surges at harbors in Hilo, Hawai'i and Kahului, Maui, the National Weather Service said.

A small-craft advisory is in effect for building northwest swells on all islands.

Even yesterday's relative calm kept rescue crews busy.

In Kailua, a 16-foot catamaran ran into a close call when the solo boater lost his motor and had no mainsail to make his way to shore.

A mild Kona wind worked against the boater, but his cell phone allowed him to call for help and a global positioning system device aided rescuers in finding him.

"It took us 45 minutes to tow him in, and he's fine," Fire Capt. Kenison Tejada said.

But in Waikiki, beachgoers watched as a lifeguard pulled in a 65-year-old tourist who drowned just off the beach in front of the Royal Hawaiian Hotel.

A lifeguard spotted Barton Zabin, a Royal Hawaiian guest, about 11:40 a.m., floating face down. Lifeguard Thomas Allen tried to resuscitate him, but Zabin did not respond.

He was pronounced dead at Straub Hospital.

Reach Tanya Bricking at tbricking@honoluluadvertiser.com or 525-8026.