MALIBU, California (CNN) -

Smashing!

That pretty much sums up the waves coming to Southern California this week. And depending on whom you ask -- weather forecasters or surfers -- that word means either life-threatening peril or enlivening fun.

Far offshore, Hurricane Marie is driving some of the tallest breakers in years to crest at Los Angeles-area beaches.

The National Weather Service has issued beach hazard and high surf warnings from more than 100 miles north of L.A. down to the border of Mexico. The swells should last until Friday.

They have surfers reveling, according to Surfline, because after a pretty tame season, finally: Surf's up!

And how.

One surfer was sucked out in the current, but fortunately, famed big-wave surfer Laird Hamilton was nearby. He and another surfer helped the man out.

"We pushed the guy in," Hamilton said. "I mean, he was OK, because he was still strong enough to swim well, (but) it was one of those ones where it could have easily gone bad."

He said many of the surfers off Malibu Surfrider Beach were not used to waves as big as the ones this week.

"The ocean loves those guys. It squeezes and holds them down for a little while," Hamilton said.

But it's not a game, he said.

"You gotta have your respect for the ocean," Hamilton said.

One person died in the water Tuesday night, Los Angeles County Fire Department spokesman Scott Miller said, but it was unclear whether the death was directly related to the tumultuous surf. The surfer may have had a medical issue.

Lifeguards performed 115 rescues on Tuesday, Miller said.

The dangers

"There is the potential for damaging and life threatening surf," says the National Weather Service, which predicts waves breaking at heights of 10 to 15 feet. They could erode away a lot of beach, and wrack buildings and infrastructure close to the shore.

The pounding waves are paired with other dangers.

"Very strong rip currents and long shore currents will likely create extremely dangerous and life threatening conditions for anyone," the Weather Service says.

Rip currents are hard-to-spot flows that can drag unsuspecting swimmers out to sea. Long shore currents can shove them sideways down the shoreline.

There are other dangers, thanks to the number of surfers.

"But the real threat is the surfboards," said Bo Bridges, a surfer who cut short a vacation in Colorado to catch these "epic" waves.

"It's really dangerous when you're paddling out there and a big set wave comes out, and four or five guys are all dropping at the same time," he said.

Having an effect from afar

Hurricane Marie won't come anywhere near making landfall, CNN meteorologist Pedram Javaheri said. "It's way offshore."

The closest it will come to the state is 800 miles away on Thursday, he said. Parched Southern California won't even see any rain, which it is craving during an extended exceptional drought.