Three men seen going into raging surf wearing fins

Lifeguards and emergency responders raced along the beaches on Wednesday morning after people on Neptune Beach and Jacksonville Beach lost sight of three men who were seen going into the dangerous surf with fins on their feet near 19th Avenue North.

Jesse Burson said he lost sight of them after they were pulled by the currents and waves about three blocks south into Jacksonville Beach. He and others got concerned and called police in both cities and Jacksonville Beach Ocean Rescue.

The beaches are closed to all water activities due to Hurricane Dorian.

Rob Emahiser, the captain of Jacksonville Beach Ocean Rescue, said the three men were spotted coming out of the water on their own a few blocks south of where they went into the water.

Attempting to swim or bodysurf in such treacherous conditions is a terrible idea, Emahiser said. 

The waves were breaking out about three times the length of the Jacksonville Pier, he said.

Rip tides are not the problem Wednesday, it's the sheer power crushing power of the surf, he said.

Emahiser believes the trio quickly learned that when they got into the water.

"Looks like the ocean gave them the message to stay out of the water," Emahiser said.

The dangerous surf is not expected to abate until after Hurricane Dorian passes.

Emahiser said he expects the beaches to remain closed until further notice.

"If you must, come look," said Emahiser, "but stay out of the water."

Tuesday 50 people who were already in the water or attempting to get in the water were stopped by Ocean Rescue.

Police have the authority to cite people who intentionally disobey orders from guards and police to leave the water, said Sgt. Larry Smith of the Jacksonville Beach Police Department.

As of 10:30 a.m. Smith said there have been no other reports of trouble on the beach.

"People are hunkering down," Smith said. "Everything is really quiet. Hoping this is not the calm before the storm." 

Police cruisers were parked at many areas where the public typically accesses the beaches.

The surf was much higher Wednesday than Tuesday when waves were running six to eight feet.

Dozens of surfers, kite-boarders and beachgoers ignored the ban Tuesday which provided ripe surfing conditions around the Jacksonville Beach Pier.

Wednesday's surf is extremely dangerous, Emahiser said.

Burson pulled out his phone when he saw the men go in. He took a video and typed the word WOW and the image. He said he loves to surf but Wednesday, as Hurricane Dorian headed up the coast, was no day to be in the water.

"I'm an adrenaline junkie," he said. "But it takes common sense. There were a lot of people out looking for those people."

Eileen Kelley: (904) 359-4104