Think of 30-foot waves formed into a wedge shapes crashing onto the beach so hard the ground shakes, and you’re probably thinking of The Wedge in Newport Beach, CA. It’s history is both storied and sad: the epic waves we know today are the result of a tragic loss of a beloved son.
History Behind Epic Waves
What makes this Southern California beach – ‘The Wedge’ – famous for its pounding waves is due to the construction of the rock jetty that was finished May 23rd, 1936. Prior to that, it was always a great spot for surfing, but treacherous for boaters and swimmers during bigger swells. A young polio survivor, George Rogers, Jr., lost his life at 15 years of age at that spot (his boat capsized and he drowned with his braces on – his body was never found). After this tragic event, his father dedicated his life to the reconstruction of Newport Harbor, working on securing both federal and local aid. His work paid off as in 1936, the newly constructed Newport Harbor was dedicated. A year later, he suffered a heart attack on his boat, and died at the same spot on the water as his son did.
The timeline for how The Wedge became the location it is today, from Visit Newport Beach, Newport Beach’s tourism and hospitality Destination Marketing Organization.
- 1916 – Jetty begun by the Army Corps of Engineers.
- 1936 – Jetty extended because of lobbying by George Rogers.
- 1960s – The name “The Wedge” took the place of its old name “The Hook.”
- 1963 – Danger signs posted.
- 1964 – Featured in “Endless Summer.”
- 1982 – Viper fin created by Fred Simpson specifically for surfing The Wedge.
- 1993 – “Blackball” implemented, banning boards from 10am to 5pm, May 1st to October 31st.
In spring 2014, PBS aired “The Wedge: Dynasty, Tragedy and Legacy,” a documentary on the history of The Wedge.
A new dramatic documentary reveals how a young heir to a dynasty makes a tragic mistake that changes a family, a local community and the sport of surfing forever. PBS SoCaL, PBS for Greater Los Angeles, will premiere “The WEDGE: Dynasty, Tragedy, Legacy” on its PBS SoCaL Plus channel (50.2 over-the-air) on May 23, 2014 at 6:30 pm; the 78th anniversary of the re-opening of the Newport Harbor and the creation of “The Wedge”.
A century ago the Rogers Brothers’ built Union Rock, a Southern California empire based on rock, gravel and road building. But tragedy struck in 1926 when the oldest son of George Rogers, president of Union Rock, was tragically killed in a boating accident in the notoriously dangerous Newport Harbor entrance. At the time, that harbor entrance was the greatest surfing spot on the west coast of North America, but it was also a deadly hazard to boats and ships. A grieving father, George Rogers would dedicate ten years of his life to make sure such a tragedy would never happen again. George Rogers’ efforts to permanently improve the harbor entrance not only destroyed the greatest surfing spot on the west coast of North America, but it also created a new legendary surfing spot, The Wedge. The effort also eventually costs George Rogers his health and his life – another victim of the same harbor entrance that killed his son, a decade earlier.
“The Wedge: Dynasty, Tragedy, Legacy” is written, hosted and co-produced by Newport Beach native and Academy Award-nominated film maker, Bob Rogers, son of former Newport Beach mayor, Howard Rogers. From the Rogers’ family’s personal film and photo archive, and other sources, come extensive and never-before-seen photos and 16mm film footage showing the early transformation of the Los Angeles road system, shipwrecks, early long board surfing in the treacherous Newport Harbor entrance, and the opening of the improved Harbor in May of 1936.
“The Wedge: Dynasty, Tragedy, Legacy” at last explains the moving and personal story behind the cryptic rock monument at The Wedge, at the end of the Balboa Peninsula – long a mystery to those who pass by.
Epic Waves: Perfect Combination
Today, the epic waves we know are a result of a combination of south swell coming up against the rock jetty and the short, steep surf. When the swell comes in just right, it is common for 20-ft or larger waves to form. See the screen shot below from Surfline.com, from a large South swell.
Live Cam for the Wedge
The Wedge – Newport Harbor at Balboa Peninsula, Newport Beach, CA
Want to travel there? Here’s a map.
[pw_map address=”The Wedge, Newport Beach, CA” width=”100%” height=”400px”]
Article by Renee Shelton.
Simon, Richard. “Local Focus: Newport’s Famous “Wedge” Subject of PBS Documentary.” <i>Newport Beach Independent Newspaper</i>. <a href=”http://www.newportbeachindy.com”>www.newportbeachindy.com</a>, 24 May 2014. Web. 27 Aug. 2014.
“The Wedge Newport Beach – California Beaches | Visit Newport Beach.” <i>Visit Newport Beach</i>. Visit Newport Beach, Inc., 2014. Web. 27 Aug. 2014.
“The Wedge (surfing).” <i>Wikipedia</i>. Wikimedia Foundation, 27 Aug. 2014. Web. 27 Aug. 2014.
Images: The Wedge, Newport Beach: Wikimedia Commons via CC license; Dedication Plaque: Wikimedia Commons via CC license; Wedge Conditions: Screen Shot of The Wedge taken August 27, 2014, Surfline.com.