Rogue waves 'wipe out' spectators at Mavericks surfing competition
They were there to watch some of the worldâ€™s top surfers take on some of the biggest waves, but hundreds of spectators did not expect to become part of the action.
Two walls of water swept dozens of people off a concrete seawall where they had gathered to watch a surfing competition at Mavericks Beach near San Francisco in California yesterday.
At least 13 spectators received significant injuries, including broken legs and hands, when the crowd was knocked off the wall by 6ft-high waves, which smashed onto the beach, wiping out a marquee and throwing spectators on to rocks. Others escaped injury by scattering to higher ground.
At least three people were taken to hospital, and others were treated at the beach for minor injuries.
Scott Jalbert, the local fire chief, said that a couple of hundred people were on the seawall at the time of the accident. He estimated the waves reached up to 6ft high when they struck the beach, describing them as â€œsmall, but strongâ€.
â€œIt's a force of nature that can't be predicted,â€ Mr Jalbert said. â€œWe were very lucky that nobody was swept out to sea.
â€œNobody was swept away into the water. They were just swept onto the beach area pretty hard. It's pretty rocky.â€
Earlier hundreds of spectators had climbed a nearby hill to watch the competition. However, the view was obscured by fog so dozens had swamped the beach for a closer look and to watch the action on a big screen which had been erected on the shore.
Marsha Poulin was at the water's edge minutes before the first wave struck. She said she was concerned that organisers had let spectators get so close to the ocean, given the conditions.
â€œJust because they were letting us be here doesn't mean it was safe,â€ said Ms Poulin, who left for higher ground just in time.
â€œIt just came out of nowhere and wiped us all out,â€ said Pamela Massette, who scraped her hand when she was hit by the waves.
The surfing contest offers a $150,000 (Â£96,000) first prize, making it the most lucrative big-wave contest in the world.
Surfers said the conditions were ideal for big-wave competition, with some estimating the waves had reached up to 50ft offshore.
Ion Banner, a surfer who took part in the competition, said that the waves were â€œconsistently bombingâ€, and were the biggest waves he had seen at a Mavericks contest.
"It was crazy, super-big and pretty much the real deal," Mr Banner told the San Francisco Chronicle. http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/news/world/us_and_americas/article7026544.ece