Thursday, October 28, 2010

#34 The Wedge

Nestled amongst the McMansions and ritzy yacht clubs of Newport Beach, California lies a wave shrouded in back and neck breaking infamy.  Created accidently back in the 1930’s by the Army Corp of Engineer’s extension of the Newport Harbor jetty, The Wedge is a mechanical, freak of nature wave seemingly hell bent on destroying anyone who dares to try and ride it!  Straight out of a science fiction novel, the wave is a monstrous, Frankensteinian version of a wave that not even a bored high school math student could dream up during daily wave doodlings. The wave (if it can even be called that) is truly a sight to behold on its day.  It summons itself to life from the depths of the underworld when certain long interval south swells approach the steep shoreline, refract off the jetty, and backwash into oncoming set waves that end up doubling or tripling the wave size in a matter of seconds (See Wedge swell characteristics).  In fact, the Wedge has been well documented to reach sizes of 20 feet plus on some of the biggest swells with plenty of skull pounding power to boot! On these days, expect to see hoards of photographers and onlookers crowding this stretch of beach opting for a rare glimpse of this thumping wave anomaly at work.  From the beach, the crowd watches in awe (and horror) as a select few (can we say – psychotic!!?) match wits with this mutant of a wave.  The carnage and wipeouts that ensue are just plain ridiculous!  Check out this video and see what we’re talking about!

The Wedge in its purest form is a violent and unpredictable warble of a wave that takes no prisoners!  Its sole objective is to barrel, pit, spit, and ruin all that enter its shore break domain.  Words that best describe it are: thumping, grinding, heaving, kamikaze, punishing, extremely shallow, and yes, unfortunately for some - even paralyzing. It should be noted that the wave is not really geared for stand up surfing (i.e.- surfboard + freak of nature wave = really bad wipeout with chunks of fiberglass stuck in your bloody head).  In all reality, the shape and flow of the wave is best left to the bodysurfers which works out in the end because there’s a blackball ordinance from 10-5 daily May through October (prime south swell season) precluding any wave riding vehicles of any sort at the break. To the surfer, the Wedge is an evil stepchild of a wave; a novelty item with a nearly impossible drop and an even more difficult exit strategy. It’s more akin to the Play-Doh Wipeout Factory for self mutilating wave riding enthusiasts, pumping out a healthy dose of whoop-ass and sand papery enemas for all those crazy enough to challenge it.  It’s a wave that hardly gets surfed unless your name happens to be Strider Wasilewski, Kelly Slater, or the Hobgood brothers and you figured it was about time you mixed things up a bit for the next cover shot of Surfer Mag (“Duuude……3rd reef Pipe was getting played out man”).  In fact, it’s not uncommon to see The Wedge featured in many media sources and surf video blooper reels documenting the never ending destruction as bodies and limbs get tossed like ragdolls into 1 foot of water.  Sound tempting?  Get some premium health insurance, some cojones, and say your prayers.  This wave is one meaty monster!

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