Battle over Newport's iconic 'Wedge' surf spot goes before city officials

Pacific Storm Brings High Surf To Southern California

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A body surfer rides a high wave at the Wedge on September 1, 2011 in Newport Beach, California.

A long running  battle over the right to surf "the Wedge"  goes before Newport Beach city officials Monday night.  They'll hear from the public about controversial rules banning surfboards at specific times, in a spot that's world famous for generating big waves. 

The iconic Wedge draws all kinds of surfers to the far east end of the Balboa Peninsula.  Swells there can reach up to 30 feet. 
 
When the yellow 'blackball' flag is displayed starting in the spring, bodysurfers get their own allotted time to conquer the waves - without worrying about getting hit by boards. Bodysurfers say the regulations, that have been in effect for about two decades, actually work to lessen the chance of injuries.
 
Surfer, Tim Burnham, 30, says the regulations divide time fairly, so each type of surfer gets a chance to ride the waves.
 
"I like to body board, I like to knee board, I do it all," Burnham said. "I just think there's a time and place for it and sharing the wave is vital." 
 
Burnham is a member of the Wedge Preservation Society.  The group collected dozens of signatures in the early 1990s, trying to get a full ban on boards.
 
But Surfer Paulo Prietto, 30, says more people with surfboards and skim boards are visiting the beach and he thinks it's time to consider a change.
 
"I think they should take a closer look at identifying what they had previously designated that to be as a body surfing beach and being open-minded to the other board sports," said Prietto. 
 
Prietto is part of a group petitioning to end the regulations on surfboards. He says they've gathered about 1,500 signatures.
 
As for now, the "Blackball Ban" regulating board surfers remains in effect from May 1st through October 31st, from 10 am until 5 pm.   The October 21st community meeting on Blackball surfing regulations is scheduled for 6 pm at the Newport Beach Civic Center.
 

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