"There was a few minutes there where I was stuck in the vortex and thought the lifeguards were going to have to come out and save me," said surfer Jamie O’Brien at Red Bull Wedge Sessions on Saturday in Newport Beach, California.
Jamie has surfed a lot of big waves and handled Pipeline on the heaviest of days, but the Wedge, at 15 feet, is an entirely different animal. "I got a few bombs, but I also took a few beatings," he said.
Action at Red Bull Wedge Sessions got underway as soon as the lifeguards dropped the blackball flag and gave the surfers the chance to paddle out. In recent years a handful of hearty locals have taken to charging the mutant wave, and they were out in force.
“Everybody was getting some good ones,” Jamie said. “Hats off to the guys who surf that place regularly -- that’s no normal wave.”
The concept for Red Bull Wedge Session was simple: wait for a 12 to 15-foot south swell to come bounding off the Newport Harbor Jetty, and go charge it. No scores, no judges, no rules -- just cutting loose in unruly conditions because that’s what guys like Jamie thrive on.
“There was one I got where I literally jumped off my board at the top of the wave and free fell to the bottom, like some crazy swan dive into oblivion,” joked Jamie, who apparently has a warped sense of humor.
The thing about a wipeout at the Wedge is that it can spin shattering, literally. Many a surfer, bodysurfer and bodyboarder have ended up being backboarded and rushed to Hoag Hospital. And just like NASCAR grandstands filled with people waiting for the crashes, the beach was packed with gawkers, tourists and surfers lacking the sack to paddle out.
“It’s a full-on spectacle; the beach was packed, lined with all kinds of people who just wanted to see us take a licking -- and we did,” said Jamie.
The event was never intended to be a super hyped-up gladiator tournament, and while some of the locals were a bit wary at first, as things got underway -- as is always the case -- surfing is surfing and good surfers, no matter where they’re from or who they are, respect and appreciate somebody who’s going to go out and put it all on the line. Jamie and the local crew certainly did that.
“It’s an amazing wave; I was blown away. It’s not Pipeline; that rebound off the jetty’s hard to read and you’re constantly trying to find the right place to take off, but that’s what’s so great about it. It makes you work for it,” concluded Jamie. “I had a ball out there. It’s amazing to think that there’s this big, slabby, scary wave in the heart of Orange County. I wish I’d surfed out there before because it gets your heart racing like any good, big wave should.”
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