Swell of the Summer Offers up All-Time Wedge

Dirty, old, and positively firing

If you were in Southern California this weekend, and you weren’t busy reveling in the long-period south yourself, you were undoubtedly kicking yourself as images and videos of a firing coastline filled your social media feed. And there wasn’t a break that brought that scroll to a standstill quite like The Wedge, which fed on a near-perfect swell direction and coughed out clean, monstrous peaks for Tommy Cantrell, Sage Burke, Bobby Okvist, Parker Nicholas, Nate Zoller, Spencer Purdy, and more.

“On Friday night, I went down to check it out, because I knew the swell was filling in,” says Newport-based photographer John Lucarelli. “It seemed to pick up a lot quicker than everyone thought. There were some nice waves on Friday afternoon, and the winds were still light. We definitely knew there was a lot of energy. The sand's been really good, because obviously we haven't had many waves in a while, so both Wedge and Cylinders were working. It was nice and clean, and just a little bit offshore.”

“In the early morning on Saturday, there were definitely some lines coming through,” added photographer Ben Ginsberg. “Not quite the biggest sets yet, but you could tell that there was size. There were also lulls at times because when you get those 18-second long periods, it takes while to stack up. But probably around 7:00 or 7:30, a couple of massive 5- to 6-wave sets started freight-training through from the outside. Everyone started scratching for the horizon. Tommy Cantrell got the fourth wave of the set and got a massive one. I think it just got going from there.” [Above photo: Ginsberg]

Unidentified. “Everyone was jonesing to get out there. You could feel the excitement in the water,” says Lucarelli. “Everyone was hooting each other into waves, running on a high. Plus, the weather was super sunny, and the vibes were good all around.”

“Truthfully, I didn't expect the swell to be as big as it was,” says Bobby Okvist on the day. “We've got a good sandbar down there right now, and even with a 6-foot-plus high tide, it was hitting the bar pretty good. The swell was a little west, so there were some closeout sets, but sometimes you need the west in it or it gets too peaky. Cylinders had some good ones, and the random wide one in the middle spread out the crowd.” [Photo: Lucarelli]

Tommy Cantrell. “As far as the conditions go, it was pretty good out there,” says Tommy. “The combination of long-period south swell and the more westerly angle provided a little more wall to the face and an opportunity to sit out the back a bit further than usual. There were definitely some gems on the inside, but the sets that came in every 45 minutes or so would start foaming at the end of the jetty and send a lot of us scratching for the outside. There were a few sets that sent half the crowd or more to the beach.”

“It was definitely the biggest south we’ve seen there all season, and it was awesome seeing the crew of guys who spend a lot of time out there send it on some beautiful looking peaks. A highlight for me was seeing the younger guys like Sage Burke and Parker Cohn send it. Those two are classic, and always bring a good energy to the lineup. It’s no surprise to see those guys grab some of the bigger sets out there.” [Photo: Lucarelli]

Tommy Cantrell. “It wasn't your normal middle-of-the-summer, oh-my-god-the-wedge-is-firing crowd,” laughs Ginsberg. “It was kind of like what it used to be when the Wedge broke five years ago. It was a little more manageable. There were still a lot of people there, though. No parking to be found at all, for sure.” [Photo: Ginsberg]

Parker Nicholas. “Parker is another one of these guys who’ve just caught on fire these last few years,” says Ginsberg. “All of those local guys are fearless. They absolutely charge out there. It's really impressive to see this younger crop being led by Sage [Burke] and Parker, kind of joining the place that guys like Bobby [Okvist] have always been in. It's really exciting to see some of these younger kids who are stepping up, who are also taking trips to Mavericks and Puerto and Todos — all over the place.”

“The wind and swell direction were pretty much as good as it gets,” Burke added when we reached out to him, “so it was making these big peaks that were super clean and makeable. I saw one of the biggest waves I've ever seen out there and took it on the head [Laughs].” [Photo: Ginsberg]

Nate Zoller. “Nate was there for a couple sessions before he had to leave for a contest he was doing at Brooks St. in Laguna Beach. He was one of the guys who was there early at dawn patrol on Saturday at Cylinders. He was telling me that he was a little undergunned [Laughs].” [Photo: Lucarelli]

“It was so great that we finally got such a big south swell — so late in the year, too,” says Ginsberg. “And it's potentially not over yet. You can never count out things in the fall season. We could still have a big NW or something come through, and then a week later, we might get another south before it switches fully to the winter. It's a really exciting time of year. I love the fall for that reason.” [Photo: Ginsberg]

Ken Suzuki. “After Friday and Saturday morning, I went to Upper Jetties and took some lineup shots,” says Lucarelli. “There’s waves everywhere, all down the coastline. This is usually the time of year where all this stuff lines up and turns on. Everyone was happy, and everyone's hoping for more of it to continue for a good fall.” [Photo: Lucarelli]