OC Beach Draws Surfers, Spectators With Near-Record Waves

As Hurricane Marie pushed waves to near-records at The Wedge, large crowds turned out to watch experienced surfers take on the swells

Thousands crowded the beach along The Wedge in Newport Beach Wednesday to watch as hard-core surfers took to the big waves driven by Hurricane Marie.

By sunrise at the famous surf spot, the first few surfers prepped to take on the waves, even as lifeguards cautioned all but the most experienced to stay out of the water amid warnings of record swells and high waves.

"It's fantastic! They're catching great waves, it's a spectacle!" said Bill Zabelny, who was visiting the popular surfing spot for the first time.

There were huge swells throughout the morning, with some waves reported up to 20 feet. Crowds gathered along the sand to watch the surfers take on the rare sets.

"It used to be just a few people down here and riding and no one ever knew the place existed," said Dennis Proud, a long-time visitor to The Wedge, who has been visiting for 40 years.

"There might be 40 or 50 guys out there but there's only about 6 or 8 guys that actually ride it, the rest of them just like to bobble up and down in it."

Even after sunset, a crowd of over a thousand people watched Laguna Beach surfer Nate Zoller.

"I couldn’t see anything because it's pretty much dark but I got here kind of late so I decided to go for it," Zoller said. "This is one of the bigger swells I've ever seen in Southern California so, it's been a good day."

As Hurricane Marie swirled off the coast of Mexico, driving the large swells that are expected to continue through Friday, some observers sent up drones above the surf. The operators hoped to catch video of what could be record-breaking surf.

"It's pretty crowded out there, everyone wants a piece of it," said professional surfer Jamie O’Brien.

O’Brien took the day as an opportunity to try a new technique - two surfboards at once.

"Yeah, I just figured I'd have a little fun in the swell, challenge myself as long as the swell was up and do a little board transfer."

Local pro Joe Aaron, a two-time Orange County Long Board Surfer of the Year, also showed up at The Wedge.

He explained how the surfers can get out of the water when the swells get the better of them.

"You're lookin' for you know, a left with a shoulder so there's some kind of escape at the end, you know?"

Quite a few surfers, though, ventured out despite the warnings and had to be pulled from the water by lifeguards - although no one suffered serious injuries.

"This is as big as it gets for California so it's kind of like the North Shore for us Cali folks and it's rare so you wanna catch it when you can, you know?" Aaron said.

Contact Us