9 Images

The sponge won

“When everything is working, I’d almost take the Wedge over any wave in the world,” says Ron Romanosky, a longtime Wedge knee boarder and photographer. “Make it or not, it imprints an addiction. . . . The big peak pitches so hard that you’re almost guaranteed being airborne.” (Allen J. Schaben / LAT)
A surfboarder floats across a wave in Newport Beach. (Allen J. Schaben / LAT)
A bodyboarder flies into a giant hurricane- generated wave on the south side of the Seal Beah Pier in 1997. (Allen J. Schaben / LAT)
“The people in the water are much more diverse than they were 30 years ago,” says longtime surfer Bill Sharp. “Bodyboarding is a big part of why.” (Allen J. Schaben / LAT)
Bodyboarder Mike Stewart rides a giant 30-foot wave during the biggest hurricane swell of recent memory in Newport Beach. (Allen J. Schaben / LAT)
Most Southern California breaks max out at 8 to 10 feet during a summer’s half a dozen or so big south swells. The Wedge’s unusual hydraulics can throw up 20- to 25-foot faces that come down in a roaring barrel roll of water that a rider who survives remembers as a very happy place. (Allen J. Schaben / LAT)
Waves up to 25 feet crash into a body-munching shore break at the Wedge. Pro bodyboarder Mike Stewart drops into a wave in July 1996. (Allen J. Schaben / LAT)
Jason Rhodes, 15, of Newport Beach, catches air as he flies off a wave at the Wedge. (Allen J. Schaben / LAT)
Surfers, who dominate most breaks, tend to avoid the Wedge, with its freefall drop-ins and backwash so propulsive it makes being attached to a hard, pointed object particularly unappealing. (Allen J. Schaben / LAT)