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Coronavirus leads to an early blackball season at the Wedge

Surfers and boogie boarders angle for position at the Wedge in Newport Beach on Thursday.
Surfers and boogie boarders angle for position at the Wedge in Newport Beach on Thursday.
(Scott Smeltzer / Staff Photographer)

Newport Beach city officials are tightening access to the Wedge surfing spot as they say too many people, in the water and on the sand, are gathering at the famed locale when they should be at home to slow the spread of the COVID-19 coronavirus.

City lifeguards will fly blackball flags prohibiting board surfing from 10 a.m.-5 p.m. in the area beginning Friday and will also close off the adjacent beach to prevent people from gathering. The Newport Beach Fire Department, which oversees the lifeguard division, recommended the closure Thursday after seeing an uptick in surfers and spectators during this week’s strong swell.

Temporary fencing will block the beach from the western harbor jetty to M Street.

OC Parks implemented parking lot closures at all county beaches and pedestrian access points to others as a measure to reinforce social distancing. Not everyone is staying away, though.

The Wedge is closed to all surfboards and flotation devices from 10 a.m.-5 p.m. May 1 through Oct. 31 each year. Newport’s directive advances the local blackball season by about three weeks.

The city reports that overall beach visitation is down by as much as 95% since the statewide stay-at-order was announced March 19. The city has also closed its large beach parking lots and other shoreline amenities such as piers and boardwalks to discourage people from gathering.

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