Body surfer dies in giant surf in Newport Beach

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Susan Valot/KPCC

A lifeguard runs toward the jetty at "The Wedge" in Newport Beach at the same time a body surfer got slammed into the rocks and was killed Friday.

A dangerous day at Orange County beaches turned deadly Friday afternoon. Lifeguards have made dozens of rescues in the surf that’s pounding south-facing beaches. The waves have been more than 20 feet high at “The Wedge” in Newport Beach.

KPCC’s Susan Valot says at “The Wedge” in Newport Beach, a body surfer was killed Friday afternoon when the surf slammed him against the jetty.

Susan Valot: Witnesses say the body surfer was swimming out when a big set of waves started pummeling “The Wedge” – the popular body surfing spot where the shoreline meets the jetty in Newport. The body surfer got caught in the waves - and was repeatedly slammed against the rocks.

Lifeguards couldn’t get to him until the set of waves passed. By then, he wasn’t breathing. Doctors pronounced him dead at nearby Hoag Hospital. Bob McAuliffe lives just a few blocks from “The Wedge.” He watched the surf earlier in the day.

Bob McAuliffe: In my opinion, this is the most dangerous beach in the world, when it’s big like this. It really is because it’s shallow water. And if you watch those bigger waves coming in, you have one chance to make it out the back and that’s it. If not, you’re going to get slammed on the ground and lights out or wheelchair or something.

Valot: The waves at the “Wedge” are twice the size of the surf hitting other south-facing beaches in Southern California. Waves bounce off the jetty and push up the incoming surf, making it even bigger. That’s why it’s so dangerous when storm-fueled swells hit the coast.

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