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'Super swell' triggers massive waves, dangerous currents in Hawaii

Jamm Aquino / Reuters

Alice Lunt, right, tosses a sandbag to a volunteer as high surf hits the North Shore of the island of Oahu, near Sunset Beach, Hawaii, on Jan. 22, 2014.

Hawaiian authorities closed beaches and crews canvassed the island of Oahu’s famous North Shore as forecasters warned of dangerous surf that could reach 50 feet on Wednesday.

The area's big waves — for decades a lure to surfers worldwide — are considered much too hazardous for ocean activities through the end of the week as a storm and cold front moves across the Pacific island chain.

On Tuesday, a Hawaii big wave surfing competition has been called off because of the expected 40 to 50-foot waves.

“Nobody has any business in the ocean,” Lt. John Hoogsteden told the Honolulu Star Advertiser.

The National Weather Service said an intense storm out of the northwest bringing high winds and relative cold triggered the so-called "super swell," which is also expected to hit parts of other islands though not as intensely.

NBC station KHNL in Honolulu reported it had received photos that showed a local boat harbor under water and another impassible because of breaking waves.

The high surf warnings, in effect until Friday, prompted ocean lifeguards to hang yellow hazard tape, and to warn people to stay out of the water.

The National Weather Service’s high surf advisory said "giant breaking surf" as well as accompanying dangerous currents make it extremely hazardous to approach the shoreline.

"Expect to encounter rip currents in or near any surf zone," the advisory said.

The gates to several beach parking lots were closed in anticipation of the rough surf. That didn't stop some residents from stopping to take a look, however.

"This is awesome to watch. We haven’t had big surf like this in a long time," resident Dora Doroha, 55, told the paper.