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The Wedge is a skimboarding, surfing, bodyboarding and bodysurfing spot located at the extreme east end of the Balboa Peninsula in Newport Beach, California. During a south swell of the right size and direction, the Wedge can produce huge waves up to 30 feet (9.1 m) high.
The waves are a by-product of improvements to the groin (rock jetty) on the west side of the Newport Harbor entrance undertaken during the 1930s. When conditions are right, and a wave approaches the shore at the proper angle (most generally a south swell), an approaching wave will reflect off the jetty creating a second wave. The reflected wave meets up with the following wave of the set and forms a peak, and this pattern can repeat for several following waves as well. The combined effect of the reflected wave and the incoming wave creates a combined wave much larger than either of the two separate waves and occurs very rapidly and forms waves in a very unpredictable and "unstable" pattern, so that no two waves are alike and the exact breaking point is difficult to predict even for an experienced surfer.
Although this condition primarily occurs with large, south swells, it can also occur, with considerably lesser frequency, during "normal" conditions.
In addition, the beach at The Wedge is very steeply shaped sand, resulting in what is known as shore break (see below) and a very strong backwash which often drags people back into the surf. The backwash itself frequently creates another, outgoing wave, which can hit an incoming wave or surfer with enormous force. With the combined effect of the unpredictability of where the incoming waves will break, and the strength of the backwash, the resulting wave action can be highly unpredictable and therefore both exciting as well as very dangerous. Of course, it is this combination of danger, along with the chance to get pitted, which draws so many to surf The Wedge. Inexperienced swimmers or surfers should always use caution when considering swimming in the surf near The Wedge.
The Wedge really breaks largest when intense Southern Hemisphere storms or large tropical depressions, and hurricanes send their energy from the proper SSW direction, primarily during the summer & fall months.
Legendary surf music guitarist Dick Dale memorialized the Wedge in an eponymous 1963 instrumental piece, which is included in his Greatest Hits. The Wedge also makes an appearance in Bruce Brown's The Endless Summer.