How to surf the Wedge in Newport Beach

Unpredictable. Unstable. Deadly. Three words often used to describe the Wedge, the most famous artificially formed waves in the world. When conditions are right, this spot becomes the Banzai of Balboa, spewing waves at heights up to 30 feet that often break on the sand.

For the faint of heart or less experienced weekend warriors who may want to make its acquaintance, the best advice is to do so from the sand and leave the surfing to the experts, according to Spencer Pirdy, who’s been surfing the Wedge since he was 12: “It’s like dropping in on a halfpipe straight down. You just have to think happy thoughts.”

spencer pirdy


(1) The jetty: In the 1930s the Army Corps of Engineers made improvements to the rock jetty at the west side of Newport Harbor. Toss in the steep shore break and shallow water and you have a perfect recipe for some monster waves. (2) Refraction wave: When large swells from the southern hemisphere reach the shallow shore at just the right angle, they bounce off the jetty, creating a refraction wave that travels parallel to the shore. Body boarders and body surfers often use this wave to ride into the Wedge. (3) Two waves collide: The refraction wave collides with a second incoming wave. This creates a wave, or wedge. This creates a wave much larger than either of the two waves. Dropping in straight off the peak of the Wedge is the most difficult entry for all surfers.


The Wedge is notorious for it’s distinct crescent shape that will swallow surfers nearly every time. It’s a vicious wave with tons of water colliding from three different directions at once with a strong rip tide. Pirdy, who’s surfed, bodyboarded and bodysurfed the Wedge, tells us what the ride is like inside this aquatic beast.


Sources: Surfline, Spencer Pirdy and Artie Castro

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