As far as beach days go, Memorial Day in late May marks the kickoff to a sunburned summer, while Labor Day is the closing bell. And as lady luck would have it, the already stellar summer season was capped off this past Labor Day with a grand finale of swell–and not a day too soon.
The Wedge in Newport Beach was ground zero for some explosive south swell action during the final days of summer. Jamie O’Brien flew in from Hawaii to catch a few, and got a little more than he bargained for. Click on photo to see the full gallery. Photo: Jimmicane/Surfing Magazine
Southern California saw weather, clear skies, and packed beaches, and this was merely the scene, as the real show came in the form of two southerly swells that coincided to light up most of the coastline. Weather maps showed a large purple blob forming just east of Tahiti that produced a big SW groundswell aimed nicely at Southern California shores. Just as that swell had materialized, a tropical low developed off the Baja peninsula, eventually becoming Tropical Storm Ileana, which then added a bonus SE swell on top of the already impressive groundswell. The results were nothing short of magic–if you were lucky enough to get a wave to yourself amid the masses.
Naturally, this kept lifeguards along Orange County shorelines in constant motion. More than 2,000 rescues were recorded on OC beaches, with several victims in Laguna Beach being airlifted to hospitals. One death was reported at Salt Creek beach, where a man identified as Frank Daniel Austin, 34, failed to return to the beach after going swimming. The recovery effort was still underway on Tuesday.
While the danger was all too real for swimmers, surfers were celebrating the prime conditions. Even Kelly Slater decided to join the fray by heading to the most crowded wave in the state: Malibu. As Surfer Magazine noted in their remarks: “People generally stop dropping in on you after your 11th world title.”
The forward-thinkers over at Red Bull planned a televised “Wedge Session” in Newport Beach, starring Jamie O’Brien, Nate Fletcher, and Bruce Irons, who were supposed to take on the famed jetty mutation. As it turned out, the plans were toned down and Jamie was the only surfer to show. While the swell was pumping all day, the 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. blackball kept surfers on the beach until the wind had already started to blow out conditions. Nevertheless, O’Brien still put his Pipe experience to good use despite some lumpy afternoon conditions that made good waves difficult to find. See Surfing magazine’s photos of the spectacle here.
Surfer magazine also had its usual team of lensmen roving the coastline, and here are some of the gems they were able to uncover.
Jamie O dropping into Wedge, Jimmicane courtesy Surfing magazine and Red Bull; video by 56streetmedia