On Monday, October 21st, the Blackball Working Group city panel met to review surfing regulations throughout Newport Beach. As the 150 beach goers, watermen and waterwomen stuffed their way into Newport Beach’s Civic Center, the main issue addressed was regarding the Wedge, one of surfing’s most iconic breaks.
The Wedge brings to its shore skimmers, surfers, boogie boarders and body surfers, all vying for the chance to ride the mutant-shaped waves that come together and create massive walls of water, sometimes reaching up to 20+ ft on a south west summer swell.
However, when the waves become that large, putting that many athletes in the water on different equipment can become dangerous, especially for bodysurfers who brace the hard hitting waves with nothing but their wetsuits and fins.
The Newport Beach City Council recognized these safety concerns initially in 1985 and gave bodysurfers the water when the waves were blackballed from June 15th through September 10th each year. However, in 1993, the council extended those dates from May 1st though October 31st from the hours of 10am and 5pm.
Yet the powerful shore break at the Wedge still breeds a turf war that inevitably resurfaces throughout peak seasons, urging the reconsideration of dropping the regulations altogether and promoting shared waves.
“The decisions will be made based on safety,” said Rob Williams, the lifeguard battalion chief said to the Los Angeles Times. “It is also possible that no changes will be made to current regulations.”
For nearly two hours, representatives from every area of the surf community spoke. Surf photographers, surfers, bodyboarders, concerned mothers and local legacies, down to members of the bodyboarding Wedge Crew themselves, all made appearances to voice their opinions and concerns.
Karl Larson, a bodysurfer in the Wedge Crew, urged the crowd to keep the black ball ordinance in place and come together as “true watermen.”
The 30 year Wedge veteran asked everyone to, “Put your boards on the beach and come join us in the water,” stating that he welcomes people into the water when black balled, so long as it’s just them and a pair of fins.
Williams ended the meeting thanking everyone for coming out and voicing their concerns, informing the community that the Newport Beach Parks, Beaches and Recreation Commission would regroup within the next week or two to formulate and see if a change truly is needed. He stressed, however, that this is no quick change. The soonest this issue will be brought to the commission is January or February in a public forum setting, and from there, it takes another 60 days to process a final recommendation to the Newport City Council.
So far, the commission has received over 100 emails regarding the ordinance, not only about the Wedge, but for other Newport streets concerning the partial ban as well.
To voice your concern or opinion on the issue, email firstname.lastname@example.org or sign the petition at change.org. along with the 1,500 other signatures calling for an end to the time restraint at the Wedge.