Surfers want more wave time at Newport Beach’s famed Wedge

Board surfers want more time allotted to riding the storied waves off Newport Beach.

That was one of several messages delivered to officials at a meeting Monday in Newport Beach, where rules have long put time limits on board surfers versus bodysurfers riding waves at the Wedge off Newport Beach.

A spot at the end of the Balboa Peninsula, where the west harbor jetty extends from shore, the Wedge has set the stage for world-famous waves that can create massive walls of water reaching heights of 20 to 30 feet — a dream for surfers — that break close to the shore.


The battle between bodysurfers and board surfers has become nearly as well-known locally.

About 200 surfers of all ages, mostly male, filled the meeting, eager to offer city representatives their opinions about the fairest and safest way to share the waves, the Daily Pilot reported.

Newport Beach regulates the time and type of surfing that can occur at the Wedge.

From May through October, between 10 a.m. and 5 p.m., all flotation and surfing devices are banned at the Wedge. Anyone with a board must exit the water even when large swells create the much-awaited waves.

When the board users leave, the bodysurfers can have their time in the water. Because they move more slowly, bodysurfers say they need the blocked time to surf safely, without fear of being hit by a board.

The rules have remained untouched for nearly 20 years.

“The bodysurfers don’t feel like we own the wave; we share it,” said Tim Burnham, a bodysurfer well known in the surfing community.

Not everyone sees it that way.

Suggested changes to the policy include alternating entire days between bodysurfers and others, shortening the time that bodysurfers are allowed in the water and restricting bodysurfers to mornings and evenings rather than the other way around.

Diane Edmonds, a surfing photographer, likened the bodysurfers’ claim to seven hours a day to children who steal every piece of candy from a piñata.

Another photographer, Bob Cook, likewise compared the bodysurfers to thieves — of the daylight hours.

“Bodysurfers do not deserve it for six months,” he said. “No one deserves it for six months.”

A group that includes lifeguard and police representatives will decide whether any changes need to be made, said lifeguard Battalion Chief Rob Williams, one of the members.

Any recommendations would be presented to the Parks, Beaches and Recreation Commission, and could extend beyond the Wedge to board usage between 40th and 44th streets on the Balboa Peninsula as well as parking.


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Twitter: @emilyfoxhall

Emily Foxhall is a staff writer for Times Community News.