(NEWPORT BEACH, Calif.) — Thousands of spectators lined the beach as surfers, bodyboarders, and other brave athletes went headlong into 20-foot waves at California’s “The Wedge” wave break Wednesday.
The waves, which were categorized by Surfline.com as “Good to Epic” in size, were delivered by Hurricane Marie, swirling off the coast of California.
Surfing legend Laird Hamilton, who was at the beach Wednesday morning, helped rescue a stranded surfer who lost his board and his leash as the monstrous waves slammed into shore, according to ABC station KABC. Hamilton, who was on a paddle board when the surfer got into trouble, came to shore to put on fins and swam out to help rescue the surfer, who was injured but stable.
Newport Beach’s The Wedge is known as one of the more difficult breaks on the West Coast for its power and shape: the wave breaks right on the beach, posing a danger to surfers who fall off their boards.
Tara Finnigan, spokeswoman for the city, said the waves had attracted about 3,000 to 4,000 spectators at The Wedge and another 500 at another break in town called The Point.
“There is no parking left at the beach at this point,” Finnigan said.
The town is also experiencing beach flooding, with high tide expected at 11 a.m. Spectators have been getting soaked by waves come up over the berm, Finnigan said.
Extra lifeguards are on hand at The Wedge to try and educate surfers and swimmers and prevent less experienced swimmers from going in.
Emergency personnel lined the beach, and local news station KTLA reported that two swimmers had to be rescued after becoming stranded in the water.
One Twitter user described The Wedge as “shallow as a bathtub” because the waves crash right onto the shallow sand bottom of the ocean there.
The lifeguards have made three minor rescues, including a stand up paddle-boarder who got pulled beneath a pier by a strong current and lost his board on a piling, becoming trapped when his leash got caught.
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