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Newport Beach’s Wedge goes wild with largest swell of summer season

A skilled surfer propelled down the face of a beastly wave, its toothy whitewash threatening to chomp down and swallow up the rider.

But the surfer expertly navigated the wave’s watery face, claiming this wild ride as a victory, his body launching into the sky as he used the ocean’s force to somersault above the lip, prompting cheers from the crowd gathered on the sand.

Welcome to the mutant known as the Wedge, the greatest surf show along Southern California’s coast.



Spectators lined the sand as early as daybreak on Tuesday, July 19, as word spread that big waves were showing up this week, touted as the largest so far this summer season, if not the entire year. The waves, upwards of 15 feet, were not massive by Wedge standards, where sets can easily top 25 feet, but were enough to make for an exciting display of nature’s force.

The same southern hemisphere swell already caused a buzz in the surf world last week when it produced bombing waves in Tahiti and then Hawaii, sending a tidal wave of footage to flood social media of the world’s best wave riders tackling the massive surf.

Now, it’s Southern California’s turn, big waves have been showing up across the region, from the South Bay to San Clemente and beyond, but especially at the Wedge.

“Wow, these guys are brave,” Erin Slessor said as surfers, bodyboarders, bodysurfers and skimboarders tried to figure out how to tackle the beast. “And a little crazy.”


Slessor is new to Newport Beach, an ocean lover who grew up marveling at photos and videos of surfers.  But this was something else, she said.

“You see the pictures, but it doesn’t do it justice until you show up,” Slessor said. “It is a skill. And you gotta have a little bit of no fear. It is just amazing.”

The Wedge has a storied history in Newport Beach, where it was created by accident in the 1930s when the Army Corps of Engineers put in a rock jetty at the nearby harbor entrance.

The waves now refract off the rock jetty and then meet with other incoming waves, creating a wedge effect, a triangle peak that doubles the sizes of waves, creating a steep drop down their slippery face. The waves slam quickly in shallow waters onto the hard sand ocean floor – the cause of many injuries and some deaths through the years.

The exciting wave has lured Jackson McCullough to Newport Beach for years. He grew up in Hawaii and moved to San Diego as a teen, frequenting the Wedge and making a name for himself among the locals, many known as the notorious Wedge Crew, who heavily guard and regulate the waters.

Now 25, it’s been a few years since McCullough charged the wave, he said, the past few years focusing instead on playing college football.

“It was almost emotional being here this morning because I hadn’t been in so long,” he said, catching his breath after getting caught on the inside during a set. “A lot of the Cali waves aren’t as powerful. This is just as powerful as a Hawaiian wave.”

He arrived up at 5:30 a.m. Tuesday to get a few gems before dozens more showed up, all bobbing in the water while waiting for their perfect wave.

“It’s not huge, but there’s definitely some real waves,” he said.

Ken Boring, a bodysurfer from Oceanside, said he got excused from jury duty for the day so decided to come watch the show.

“For a certain crowd, I think it’s almost like a cult. It’s the biggest wave in Orange County,” he said. “A mutant wave.”

Source: Orange County Register

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