The Wedge is a prominent surfing and bodysurfing place on the Balboa Peninsula in Newport Beach, California. It is located at the extreme southeast extremity of the Balboa Peninsula. The Wedge is located on the western side of the Newport Harbor entrance, at the confluence of the beach and the man-made pier that creates the breakwater. When a surf from the south or south/southwest is of sufficient size and direction, the Wedge can produce waves up to 30 feet (9.1 m) high.
The waves are a result of changes made to the rock jetty on the west side of the Newport Harbor entrance in the 1930s. When the conditions are favorable and a wave approaches the shore at the proper angle (usually a south swell), the approaching wave will reflect off the jetty, resulting in a second wave. The reflected wave collides with the next wave in the set to generate a peak, and this sequence can be repeated for numerous subsequent waves. Due to constructive interference, if the reflected and incoming waves align, the resulting wave is larger than either alone. This happens very quickly and creates waves in an unpredictable and “unstable” pattern, so no two waves are alike and predicting the exact breaking point is impossible even for an experienced surfer.
Although this scenario is most common during strong south swells, it can also occur, albeit with much less frequency, during “normal” conditions.
The Wedge may produce massive waves up to 30 feet (9.1 m) high when a south or south/southwest swell of the right size and positioned in the swell window.
Furthermore, the beach at the Wedge is highly sharply curved sand, resulting in shore break and a very strong backwash that frequently takes individuals back into the surf. Backwash frequently generates another, outgoing wave, which can collide with an oncoming wave or surfer with tremendous power. [Citation required] The combination of the unpredictability of where the oncoming waves will break and the power of the backwash can result in very unpredictable wave action that is both exciting and dangerous. The combination of danger and the possibility of being pitted (contained in a wave’s tube, barrel, or “pit”) brings many surfers to the Wedge.
The Wedge is most active during the summer and fall months, when severe Southern Hemisphere storms or big tropical cyclones send long-period energy from the south-southwest.
The development of the Wedge surfing area was a byproduct of Newport Harbor improvements, which were completed and re-dedicated on May 23, 1936. Prior to the West Jetty wall improvements and extensions, Newport Harbor was the finest surfing destination on the whole west coast of North America. However, while Newport Harbor was popular with surfers, it was also a dangerous place to be at the time for boats and swimmers alike, especially during large seas.
George Rogers Jr., a 15-year-old polio patient, killed in Newport Harbor in 1926 when his boat collapsed in the high surf. George Rogers Jr. was reliant on leg braces as a result of polio, and his body sank to the bottom of the harbor due to the weight of his hefty iron leg braces and was never found. To avoid such a tragedy from happening again to boaters or swimmers, the boy’s father, George Rogers Sr., a renowned southern California road builder, was inspired to sell his firm and devote his remaining years of life to obtaining local and federal money to improve Newport Harbor. George Rogers Sr. ran a fundraising effort from 1926 until 1936. Despite the fact that money was scarce during the Depression, Rogers Sr. was instrumental in raising nearly $2 million in federal funding and municipal bond monies.
George Rogers Sr. died of a heart attack on his boat as he approached the repaired Newport Harbor entrance a month after it was re-dedicated.
He died in the same area where his son perished eleven years before. The Wedge: Dynasty, Tragedy, Legacy, a documentary about these events, premiered on PBS SoCaL in 2014.
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