The Wedge is not a wave — it’s a 20-foot-plus meat grinder dreamed up by the devil himself. It heaves, bends and pulverizes in ways that good little waves aren’t supposed to act. The first time you swim or paddle out on a solid day, a typical thought might be, “Dang, is my chiropractor covered in my medical plan?”
The Wedge is a combination of two waves that merge together, thrusting into a titanic slingshot that breaks with enough pounds per square inch to send Stone Cold Steve Austin to the mat. It takes a south swell only, refracting the swell energy off the jetty and creating a sideways wave that slings across the beach and mates with the next wave in the set. The result is what locals fittingly call a “humping effect,” where the set waves jack, expand and release in unimaginable ways.
The key to a good Wedge wave is the right swell interval. If the interval is just right, the side wave will hit the main swell at the perfect moment, causing it to “wedge.” Too short or too long an interval and the side wave will miss hitting the main peak. It’s not uncommon to see skimboarders, spongers and bodysurfers catching the side wave before it collides, resulting in ozone-depleting aerials, monstrous tubes and insane wipeouts.
Although the Wedge is perhaps the best-known bodysurfing spot in the world, in recent years there’s been an influx of stand-up surfers. What was once a novelty for guys like Danny Kwock back in the ’80s is now serious business for pros like Strider Wasilewski, the Hobgood twins and a long list of other challengers. Part of the reason for the influx of hard goods is that the media — both surf and mainstream — have been persistent in recording all the action. Every summer, there’s guaranteed to be a center spread of some hapless fool getting launched or a front-page shot on the Los Angeles Times of the Wedge at its nastiest. Despite the increased presence of fiberglass and foam, an alternative wave is best suited to an alternative approach, which is why bodysurfers still rule the place. In fact, they literally rule the place — thanks to a serious lobbying effort by the local skull-cap crew, throughout the summer, no boards of any kind are allowed in the water except in the early morning and late evening. So if you’re feeling suicidal, or just want to watch stand-up surfers and bodyboarders play demolition derby at one of the most breathtaking natural spectacles in Southern California, it’s best to show up in the morning or late afternoon.
Best tide: deadly at all tides
Best swell direction: S, SW
Best size: 6 to 20 feet
Best wind: E, NE
Perfect-o-meter: 9 (1=Lake Erie; 10=Jeffreys Bay)
Ability level: advanced to psychotic
Bring your: camera and beach chair; or swim fins, Speedos and insurance card
Best season summer
Access: free street parking, but if it’s pumping, plan to walk
Crowd factor: moderate
Local vibe: quietly thuggish
Bicep burn: 2 (1=knee-high Waikiki; 10=triple-overhead Ocean Beach)
Poo patrol: 10, if you include your own (1=clean; 10=turds in the lineup)
Shark danger: 1 (1=none; 10=bring an iron cage)