Image: Surfers cath a huge wave at Waimea Bay, Oahu, Hawaii.
Marco Garcia  /  Getty Images
World-class surfers and boogie boarders drop into a wave at Waimea Bay, on Oahu's North Shore, on Wednesday.
updated 12/16/2004 2:34:47 PM ET 2004-12-16T19:34:47

Waves up to 40 feet high crashed onto the Hawaiian coast Wednesday, leaving sand and debris on roadways and prompting officials to close beaches.

Amid the debris, world-class surfers gathered at Oahu’s Waimea Bay for a competition that occurs only when such enormous waves sweep the island’s coast. It’s happened only six times in the last 19 years.

“I don’t think I’ve seen it like this,” said Kelly Slater, a former world champion and one of only 24 elite surfers invited to compete.

Wave heights were reported to peak Wednesday morning between 30 and 40 feet at Waimea Bay. Forecasters had earlier predicted up to 50-foot faces.

The waves began coming ashore before dawn, crossing roads and leaving sand and debris, prompting officials to close part of a highway in this town on the north shore of Oahu.

The National Weather Service warned of high surf on north-facing shores of all islands except Lanai until Wednesday night.

Oahu Civil Defense advised residents to avoid the beaches and stay out of the water, but crowds began gathering before dawn for the surfing competition.

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