Thursday, September 29, 2011

Simply, The Wedge!

Robert Bemus
I know less than almost nothing about the sort of surfing that Robert writes about in "Simply, The Wedge."  But I have seen a LOAD of photographs of it, and my sense is that Robert Bemus is among the premier surfing photographers on Planet Earth.

But not only that, his last post here was one of the most popular stories ever to appear on this blog.  He has a sparkling wit and an unusual writing style that you'll find to be ever so refreshing.

This story and its amazing photos aptly illustrate a strange and wonderful obsession with conquering the biggest and wildest waves in the WORLD!

Robert writes:   Warning: The following pictorial contains scenes of extreme vacuousness and surfboard gore. People with IQs over about 40 should consult a doctor, shrink, priest, rabbi, imam, shaman, surf dude, etc, before viewing this material.

Enjoy the entertainment that follows, and please leave a comment at the bottom of this post, if you enjoyed this Tale of Relentless Pursuit.


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Simply, the Wedge -  by Robert Bemus

Located on the southeast corner of the Balboa peninsula, the Wedge produces some of the largest and most powerful waves in Orange County, CA. For the sake of brevity, I will just say that it is now ridden by all types of surfers – body surfers, ‘boogie’ boarders, stand up surfers, etc. – but it started out primarily as a body surfing spot.

Large ocean swells generated either from storms south of the equator or hurricanes off the coast of Mexico march northward and explode upon this little corner of man-made jetty and sand.  When that wave breaks, all that water and kinetic energy have nowhere to go except back to sea. When that sea-bound wave meets the next incoming wave, the combined energy of both waves creates a pitching, frothing horseshoe-shaped mountain of water.

Heroes are applauded, bones and boards broken, egos smashed and occasionally a person is killed.

The Wedge generally breaks from late spring to early fall.

The best time to photograph it is in the afternoon as the sun is behind you. It’s a good idea to cover your camera with a towel or plastic because of all the spray and moisture in the air.

Here are a few of my shots taken in 2010 or before.

Wedge Example

 A very small wave for Wedge standards but you can see that horseshoe effect created when the side wave meets the incoming wave.


Water Over the Jetty
Wedge Spectators
These three shots were taken 7/25/09 on one of the largest recent swells. As I recall, this swell originated off of New Zealand or the Pitcairn Islands—somewhere south of the Equator.  Note the size of the boat compared to the wave. If the waves are breaking over the jetty that means it’s huge.

Whenever there is a large swell, it is a well publicized event and people flock to see the action. It’s kind of like NASCAR for the beautiful people. If you should be so fortunate to be in Newport Beach when the Wedge is breaking, good luck finding a parking space. These shots, by the way, were taken from the bluff in Corona Del Mar.

Body-Boarder Aerial

Here’s a body-boarder (also called ‘sponger’ or ‘booger’) doing an aerial on a small Wedge wave.  Although body-boarding is a skill that is more readily developed than standup surfing or even bodysurfing, it takes very good timing and a lot of courage to perform a maneuver like this.

He Left His Head
If there is ever a photo contest with a monthly theme of ‘I left my head,’ this will be my entry. This is what happens on a booger’s failed aerial attempt. His friends re-attached his head with some wetsuit glue and duct tape. He is now left-handed and drives his car in reverse all the time but other than that, fully recovered.

Drunk and Hummingbird

This guy was too drunk to walk so he went for a swim at the Wedge. Don’t know if he took his pants off or if they were removed by a wave (a wave with a sense of humor, Robert?). 

Any of youse photographers reading this, have you ever entered a photo contest where you just knew your image would win First Place? Me neither. But I really liked this hummingbird shot and showcased it here to clone out the young an’s (   .)  I imagine since the guy was drunk and disorderly in public he was probably taken straight to the hoosegow (i.e. "jail"). Nothing like a buck naked ride in the back of an air conditioned police car to sober you up.

Not that I have any experience in that.

One more comment about this shot. Taken late afternoon: great front-lit lighting. Be glad I used the hummingbird clone stamp.

Shoulder Hopping
This wave belonged to the standup surfer. The booger is doing here what we call ‘shoulder hopping.’ It’s annoying when someone shoulder hops you on a small day. It’s dangerous on days like this. Some of the largest waves I have witnessed on this day (8/25/10) at the Wedge.

Surfboard Carnage

Gene Pool
“Just when I thought you couldn't possibly be any dumber, you go and do something like this... and totally redeem yourself!” (Harry Dunne, Dumb and Dumber, 1994)
I’m not sure what these guys were trying to accomplish here. I was disappointed that the wave that wiped them out wasn’t a lot larger. They lived and are now potential donors to the gene pool.

Shot From Water
I shot this in 2008 on a small (by Wedge standards) 4-6 foot day. My camera was in my watertight aluminum housing which was attached to my wrist with a nylon leash. I nearly had my hand ripped off when I went under a wave and since then have remained on the beach to photograph the place.

Beauty and Bravado
This shot shows the beauty and power of the Wedge and the absolute bravado it takes to ride there.

Thank you for looking!!

For video footage of the Wedge, just Google ‘YouTube wedge.’

  All photographs by Robert Bemus

Robert Bemus' Biographical Sketch:

In October, 2003, Robert was taking a Journalism class at a local college when a reporter from the Orange County Register gave a lecture on photo journalism. He went out the next day and purchased a Canon Rebel DSLR. He forgot to go back to the class and has been taking photographs ever since. He has received various awards on website contests such as and His work has been published on and he recently won the Surfline Photo Challenge for November, 2010.

He has a BA in English from Cal State University, Long Beach, has five grown children and currently works for a large cellular service provider. He spends most of his free time either surfing or photographing surfers.

You can see more of Robert's photography work at his website.


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Anonymous said...

Awesome shots!! I love the beach & watching those crazy surfers :)Tammy

Sandy Powers said...

A-MAZING amazing story!! Living so far away from anything Surfing makes it all seem so fascinating and mysterious -- like something from another planet. The photos are SPECTACULAR! Thanks for sharing your story! I loved it!

Dave Phalen said...

Being one who was a hockey goalie before they wore face masks I can understand the passion for doing something that most would call crazy.:)

Great story...Amazing photographs!!!

Joe DiGilio said...

Very interesting story Bob. What a great place to take action shots. I like SHOT FROM THE WATER & BEAUTY & BRAVADO best; they're the kind of images you can look at every day and never tire of them.

Carolyn McIntosh said...

Great story, amazing photos . . . WOW . ..if I could ever catch the waves like that I would be doing a BIG happy dance.