Beach cleanup kicks off blackball season at Wedge

The Wedge Preservation Society kicked off the first day of blackball season Thursday with a beach cleanup at the end of the Balboa Peninsula, home of the notorious Wedge surfing spot.

Though the sandy turf has served as a focal point in a recent battle over city surfing regulations, the bodysurfers who spearheaded the cleanup effort hoped to start the season on a friendly foundation.

After all, they couldn't have been certain months earlier that the black-and-yellow blackball flag would fly again so soon.

A city working group began reviewing surfing rules in Newport Beach last fall, calling into question a ban on boards at the Wedge from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. May 1 through Oct. 31.

In February, the working group suggested changing that ban to 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Memorial Day weekend (the last Monday of May) through Labor Day (the first Monday in September).

Still, to the relief of bodysurfers, who say the time limits are necessary to keep them safe, the Parks Beaches and Recreation Commission sent the suggestions back for further review.

No matter what people choose to ride at the Wedge, be it surfboards, bodyboards or even rafts, organizer Kevin "Mel" Thoman hoped everyone could unite in the effort to keep the area and surrounding neighborhood clean.

Beauty, heritage and safety make up the new mantra for the Wedge Preservation Society, which hopes to disassociate itself from the "Wedge Crew" moniker that referred to a tight-knit bunch of bodysurfers who frequented the spot in the '70s and '80s and fought for the ban.

"We're actually trying to bring people together, rather than being us against them, bodysurfers against the world," Thoman said.

The Wedge Preservation Society is responsible for the area through the Adopt-a-Beach program.

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