Located at the extreme east end of the Balboa Peninsula in Newport Beach, The Wedge is one of the area’s most popular spots for surfing. Known for its large wedge-shaped waves, the Wedge can produce wages measuring up to 30 feet high.
Waves at the Wedge
When the conditions are right and a wave approaches the short at the right angle, which is generally in the form of a south swell, an approaching wave can reflect off of the jetty and create a second wave. This reflected wave can then meet up with the following wave to create a peak. This pattern can then repeat for several following waves, with the combined effect of the reflected wave and the incoming wave resulting in a wave that is much larger than either of the two original waves. This process occurs very rapidly, creating waves in a very unpredictable and unstable pattern so that no two waves are the same. Furthermore, the exact breaking point can be difficult to predict, even for experienced surfers.
The interesting wave formations experienced at The Wedge are the result of improvements that were made to the rock jetty on the west side of the Newport Harbor entrance in 1936. While these conditions mostly occur with large, south swells, it can also occur during seemingly “normal” conditions. The summer and fall months, when the most intense Southern Hemisphere storms or large tropical cyclones are most likely to occur and send their long period energy from the SSW direction, generally offer the largest breaks at The Wedge.
The Beach at The Wedge
In addition to its unusual wave patterns, The Wedge is also home to a unique beach with very steeply shaped sand. This results in a shore break that produces very strong backwash known to drag people back into the surf. The backwash frequently creates another outgoing wave that can hit an incoming wave or a surfer with enormous force. The strength and unpredictability of the waves is exciting, but also creates a potentially dangerous situation. This sense of danger combined with the chance to get pitted, which involves becoming enclosed in the “pit” of the wave, are among the reasons why so many are drawn to The Wedge for surfing.
The History of The Wedge
Prior to the alterations that took place at Newport Harbor in 1936, Newport Harbor was already the premier surfing spot on the west coast. It was not, however, a good place for boaters and swimmers to explore, particularly during the big swells. The move to make the changes to Newport Harbor was largely pushed by George Rogers, Sr., who was motivated to make the changes after his 15-year-old son and polio victim, George Rogers, Jr., drowned following a boating accident in the harbor. Rogers, Sr. sold his business so he could focus on seeking local and federal funding to alter the harbor.
After campaigning for 10 years, Rogers, Sr. raised the necessary funds in 1936. Despite the Depression, he was able to obtain approximately $2 million in federal aid and local bond funds. A month after the re-dedication to improve the entrance, Rogers, Sr. suffered a heart attack while entering the harbor entrance on his boat. He passed away at approximately the same location where his son had passed away 10 years earlier.
Since the mid-1950s, The Wedge has been a popular location for evening beach parties. The Wedge has also been memorialized in music and movies, including making an appearance in Bruce Brown’s The Endless Summer, Dick Dale’s eponymous 1963 instrumental piece and All Time Low’s “Let it Roll”.