After treating several local surfers injured in the crashing winter waters, officials at Santa Barbara Cottage Hospital issued a safety warning Wednesday.
Nurses and doctors on Wednesday tended to at least six surfers who suffered a range of injuries, from scrapes and abrasions to mild hypothermia in this week’s unusually high waves, officials said.
“Respect the ocean and its power,” said Dr. Benedict Taylor, himself a surfer and the hospital’s chief surgical resident on the trauma service. “You don’t see waves of this magnitude very often. Don’t go out alone — use the buddy system.”
The spike in surfing patients from Santa Barbara coincides with the drowning death of a surfer in the Monterey area this week.
A high surf advisory for Santa Barbara issued by the National Weather Service is expected to last until 10 a.m. Thursday.
Meteorologists are also forecasting likely rain for Santa Barbara on Thursday and Friday.
Meanwhile, Wednesday’s high tide and large swells caused some flooding in the parking lot at Goleta Beach, officials said.
David Sweet, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service Office of Oxnard, said waves in the normally calm waters of Santa Barbara’s beaches reached heights of up to seven feet — more than twice their average size at this time of year.
Sweet said the turbulence here is the byproduct of a massive ocean storm off the coast of Washington state, where recent major downpours and raging floods have made national headlines.
“The strong winds associated with that storm generated very strong waves,” he said. “Those waves traveled all this distance and affected us here in Southern California.”
Among the surfers injured this week was 28-year-old Jeff Kubran of Santa Barbara.
Early Wednesday morning, Kubran was in the waters of Rincon Beach, surfing 10-foot waves, which he said is about twice their normal height.
“They were probably the biggest ones I’ve ever tried to surf,” he said.
Kubran, a 10-year surfer, said he was in the water about 50 yards from the shore when a large wave swept him off his feet and permanently washed away his board. After fighting his way up for air, Kubran treaded water and tried to catch his breath. Luckily, another surfer who noticed his plight swam to Kubran. With Kubran hanging onto the other surfer’s board, they paddled towards the shore.
Meanwhile, the surf continued to plow into them, steering them into the rocks. At one point, Kubran saw chunks of his destroyed board floating in the water.
“I used all my energy just trying to hang onto the rocks,” he said. “I was just so tired. I couldn’t move at all.”
When he finally made it to shore, Kubran said he was too wiped out to even drive. Another surfer dialed 9-1-1, and an ambulance took him to Santa Barbara Cottage Hospital.
There, he learned that his body temperature had sunk from a healthy 98 degrees to 94 degrees, sending him into mild hypothermia. The medical staff warmed him up with a blanket, treated his cuts and scrapes, and checked his chest X-rays, which were clear, Dr. Taylor said.
“He hadn’t lost consciousness, which is key,” he said. “If you lose consciousness out there, you drown.”