Surfing The Wedge - know this before trying

© Jimmy Wilson/Red Bull Content Pool
This surf spot is known for having some of the most challenging waves in Southern California.
By Red Bull Editorial TeamPublished on
Surfing is a popular sport, and wherever there are beaches with waves, you'll likely see people surfing. However, some locations will draw surfers to them, especially when they provide a unique experience. One such place found along California's incredible coastline is called The Wedge.

Surfing The Wedge in California

If you're in the Newport Beach, California area, you might be thinking of surfing The Wedge. This surf spot is known for having the most challenging waves in Southern California and probably the entire West Coast. The giant waves are a result of a 2,000-foot jetty that was constructed by the Army Corps of Engineers in the 1930s. The purpose for its construction was to protect the Newport Harbor.
The jetty forces one wave to crash back into another wave, which ultimately combines the forces of two waves into one. Essentially, this means you'll feel almost as though you're surfing two massive waves all rolled into one giant wave. You won't find two waves that break the same, making this an unpredictable surfing break that's difficult to time just right.
This phenomenon creates heavy waves with thick lips, making them a challenge all in their own right. In addition to the giant waves that can reach heights of up to 30 feet, surfers here also have to stay clear of the jetty itself. The big rocks are extremely slippery because they're always being hit by the waves, not to mention that getting pounded into rocks by powerful waves can be very hazardous to your health and well-being. In fact, many surfers have been injured and a few have even died in the harsh and unforgiving sea that creates The Wedge.
Surfing · 2 min
Red Bull Wedge Session 2012
Despite the danger, surfers come out and take on the waves here throughout the season. If you want to catch the largest waves at this Newport Beach surf spot, the best times of year to visit are summer and fall. This is when the winds, tides, and other ocean conditions are ideal for surfing the big waves.
You'll also need to be aware of the blackball flag. When they raise this flag, it means that only bodysurfing is permitted, so no board surfing of any kind will be allowed. The flag will be up from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. between the months of May and October.
During this time, you can take the opportunity to study how the waves form and break. Doing so will help you take them on with more confidence and knowledge. Having the right surfboard is also key, so take a look at these five surfboards you have just got to try.

Who Should Surf The Wedge?

Knowing how dangerous and risky it can be to surf The Wedge, it may seem obvious that this break should be reserved for the wave rider who's had a lot of time and experience riding big waves in a variety of conditions. Because it's one of the more difficult locations on the West Coast to surf, it's best left to the experts. Professional surfers who have been known to catch some gnarly waves at this dangerous big-wave surf spot include:
Regardless of the fact that this ride can be dangerous even to the most skilled wave riders, many beginner and intermediate surfers can be seen taking on the challenge. Always be aware of the surf conditions and other surfers before heading out into the huge waves found breaking at The Wedge.
For those who prefer to watch from the shore, this is a great place to catch some incredible surfing action. You'll see a lot of photographers and videographers hanging out when the waves are high and trying to capture some of the action on film. When you can't make it to the beach in person, watch Red Bull's videos that showcase a few of the pro surfers who have carved themselves a name in the sport.

What to Know Before Surfing The Wedge

No matter whether you're a pro surfer, bodyboarder, skimboarder, or bodysurfer, if you think you're up for the challenge that is presented by The Wedge, you need to keep these things in mind:
  • Don't go to the right.
  • Stay away from the jetty!
  • Respect the locals and let them ride first.
  • Don't rush it; take time to observe the waves.
  • This is probably the heaviest wave in Southern California.
  • Waves average around 15 to 30 feet but can change quickly.
As long as you take this knowledge with you to the peninsula, you should fare well when surfing The Wedge. There's no fee to enter the beach, but do note that parking is limited and can be a hassle.

Other Reasons to Check Out The Wedge

We all know that weather and waves can be unpredictable and sometimes disappointing. Fortunately for visitors to the Newport Beach area, you'll find plenty of other things to do besides surfing. You can always relax in the sun by stretching out in the sand and catching the surfing action from shore, or take a walk along the 5-mile stretch of beach and check out all the incredible beachfront houses. Another relaxing thing to do is watch the steady stream of boats coming and going from Newport Harbor.
If you're looking for dining in the area, you can try the Seaside Donuts Bakery for breakfast, Woody's Wharf for lunch or dinner, or grab a bite at the retro diner found on the Balboa Pier. For those looking to enjoy the outdoors after surfing, grab your bike or hiking shoes and go explore the Newport Balboa Bike Trail or take a ride on the Balboa Island Ferry. The Balboa Peninsula Park is also a nice place to relax outside.
As for entertainment, the whole family is sure to love the Balboa Fun Zone, then you can shop for souvenirs and gifts at The Mermaid Store. Don't forget to stop by and see the historic Balboa Pavilion that was built in 1906. These are just a few of the fun things you can do and places you can grab a bite when you're out on the Balboa Peninsula where The Wedge is located. It's the perfect place to kill time while you wait for the blackball flag to be lowered or if you've had enough surfing for one day.
As you drive toward the end of the peninsula, you'll notice Newport Beach on your right. This beach offers another place to paddle out and catch some waves. They may not have the same qualities of the waves further down the peninsula, but you'll still find some enticing action that will draw you out to sea.
No matter whether you're a bodysurfer, a bodyboarder, or any of the other riders that frequent The Wedge, you'll find that the thrill of riding this break is an unforgettable experience. The friendly, laid-back vibe of the Newport area is welcoming to visitors and surfers of all abilities as long as you respect the locals and the culture of the sport.