The Wedge is a spot located at the extreme east end of the Balboa Peninsula in Newport Beach, California known for its large wedge shaped waves that makes it a popular spot for surfing. During a south or south/southwest swell of the right size and aligned in the swell window, the Wedge can produce huge waves up to 30 feet (9.1 m) high. When surf is great, I love to grab a cup of coffee early morning and head down to the wedge to watch the locals play. Even the coast guard comes out in the helo when it’s truly entertaining. Another fun thing to do is jump the rocks all the way out to the end… If your legs are strong enough to do it without taking a break, you can be there in 5 minutes each way. I often find sea lions hanging out with the fishermen.
The waves are a by-product of improvements to the rock jetty on the west side of the Newport Harbor entrance undertaken during the 1930s. When conditions are right, and a wave approaches the shore at the proper angle (most generally a south swell), an approaching wave will reflect off the jetty creating a second wave. The reflected wave meets up with the following wave of the set and forms a peak, and this pattern can repeat for several following waves as well. The combined effect of the reflected wave and the incoming wave creates a combined wave much larger than either of the two separate waves and occurs very rapidly and forms waves in a very unpredictable and “unstable” pattern, so that no two waves are alike and the exact breaking point is difficult to predict even for an experienced surfer.
Although this condition primarily occurs with large, south swells, it can also occur, with considerably lesser frequency, during “normal” conditions.
In addition, the beach at The Wedge is very steeply shaped sand, resulting in what is known as shore break and a very strong backwash which often drags people back into the surf. The backwash itself frequently creates another, outgoing wave, which can hit an incoming wave or surfer with enormous force. With the combined effect of the unpredictability of where the incoming waves will break, and the strength of the backwash, the resulting wave action can be highly unpredictable and therefore both exciting as well as very dangerous. The combination of danger, along with the chance to get pitted (enclosed in the tube, barrel, or “pit” of a wave), draws many to surf The Wedge.
The Wedge breaks largest when intense Southern Hemisphere storms or large tropical cyclones send their long period energy from the SSW direction, primarily during the summer & fall months.