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‘That must have hurt’: Surfers flock to the Wedge to take on big waves driven by tropical storm

A surfer catches a wave Tuesday morning at the Wedge in Newport Beach.
A surfer catches a wave Tuesday morning at the Wedge in Newport Beach.
(Kevin Chang / Daily Pilot)

A tropical storm off the Mexican coast is making for some sweet waves for surfers on south-facing beaches in Southern California.

Here was the scene at the Wedge in Orange County on Tuesday:

A surfer wipes out Tuesday morning at the Wedge in Newport Beach.
A surfer wipes out Tuesday morning at the Wedge in Newport Beach. (Kevin Chang / Daily Pilot)

WHY THE BIG WAVES?

You can thank Eugene

Waves reached up to 10 feet Tuesday morning at the Wedge and were expected to build throughout the day and into Wednesday. Surf in other parts of Newport Beach and in Huntington Beach is expected to range from 4 to 8 feet, according to the National Weather Service.

The larger-than-normal waves are the result of a large swell pushed northward by Tropical Storm Eugene, which had been classified as a hurricane before losing strength off the coast of Mexico.

The surf Tuesday wasn’t huge for the Wedge, where waves have been known to tower more than 20 feet. But it was enough to lure surfers and spectators to the beach for the day.

A bodysurfer and a bodyboarder catch the same wave Tuesday morning at the Wedge in Newport Beach.
A bodysurfer and a bodyboarder catch the same wave Tuesday morning at the Wedge in Newport Beach. (Kevin Chang / Daily Pilot)

HOW BIG A DANGER?

So far, so good

The waves resulted in hundreds of lifeguard rescues along the coast, mostly due to rip current conditions.

Lifeguards at the Wedge left their towers and moved closer to the edge of the water to be closer to the action. A lifeguard boat patrolled the water nearby.

But by Tuesday afternoon, lifeguards said they hadn’t encountered any emergencies, despite the large waves and strong currents.

“It shouldn’t overwhelm us,” lifeguard Battalion Chief Brent Jacobsen said earlier. “It’s a significant surf event, but it’s nothing we’re not prepared for.”

A surfer catches a wave Tuesday morning at the Wedge in Newport Beach.
A surfer catches a wave Tuesday morning at the Wedge in Newport Beach. (Kevin Chang / Daily Pilot)

WHAT WAS THE SCENE?

‘That must have hurt’

Spectators made their way to the sand to watch and cheer the bodysurfers. A mist of ocean water provided the audience with a taste of the action without setting out into the waves.

Lori Stanley, 40, of Sacramento groaned as a big wave slammed a surfer, sending him up the beach in the white froth.

“That must have hurt,” she said.

Waves at the Wedge are known for putting on a captivating — and sometimes dangerous — show when swells roll in.

The popular surf break has left generations of daredevils and other enthusiasts with stories of broken bones and concussions. But the allure of the wild waves is irresistible too many.

“It’s a dangerous break,” Werbe said. “If you don’t know what you’re doing, that’s when you get hurt.”

Hayden Werbe stood on the rocks watching the waves build as the tide rose Tuesday mornin.

The 20-year-old Placentia resident was biding his time, waiting for the perfect set before strapping on his fins and hitting the ocean.

“That’s the one,” he said, quickly pulling up his black wetsuit before charging into the waves to join a dozen bodysurfers already in the water.

Werbe, who has been bodysurfing at the Wedge for four years, said he braved the weekday morning traffic to go to the coast when he heard about the sizable surf expected Tuesday.

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