Dirty Old Wedge (2016) Movie Script

(water running)
(ethereal music)
- [Voiceover] 1936, the
army corps of engineers
completed construction of the
west jetty
of the Newport Beach harbor
It's intent was to protect and
but what this grouping of rocks
was something that no
man could've expected.
(rock music)
(waves crashing)
- The Wedge in one word, psycho.
(Entrance Song by The Black
- That wave is a
standout, freak of nature.
- The Wedge has as much power as
any wave
I've ever surfed in my life.
- I would say Hawaii power in
the middle of Orange County.
- And it kills people and it
breaks necks
and you go, shit.
Bending time feeling fine
Entrance song
Entrance song
- It's the most famous body
surfing wave in world, duh.
- When you talk about this
mysterious place the Wedge
you finally go down there
and it's just all hell breaking
- It was a venue and it was
like a gladiator pit arena
watching a few of us pretty
much like risk our lives.
Rolling fast down 75
Cutting through like a knife
- [Voiceover] The wave was the
reason all of us were there.
It wasn't anything more
than that, it was the wave.
(water rushing)
(gentle, piano music)
- [Voiceover] My name is Ron
Some call me Romo.
I'm a shaper, a photographer,
one of maybe, I don't know,
three or four billion of them.
And I'm a hopeless and
insufferable Wedge addict.
(pencil scraping)
Our story begins at Wedge,
25 or so years after the
jetty construction was over.
There was already an established
group of guys at Wedge.
Fred Simpson and Roger
Goodan were among them.
(plucky, guitar music)
- When I first went to the
this would be in the late 50's,
there were no crowds.
There were no lifeguards.
A max crowd would
be three, four,
five people.
There were always enough waves.
- When I first arrived at the
Wedge and starting meeting
the different people that
were riding it already,
there was one gentleman
that I already knew.
He was the first high
school kid to swim faster
than two minutes in the 200.
And he did it in ninth grade.
- The wave physics at the Wedge
is unique
for a couple of different
Firstly, that you have
the wave that is coming in
from the south.
It banks up against the jetty
and so you end up with a side
being superimposed on by another
So you have two waves
on top of one another.
- It essentially doubles
the height of the wave
and it is as big as it gets on
this coast.
- It was routinely all body
Surf boards were too long and
too heavy
to be able to handle the big
And, to be able to experiment
with different techniques,
it was really remarkable
because we got a lot
of riding in.
It was very, kind of
egalitarian, sweet environment.
- [Voiceover] No
magazines, no social media.
People communicated on
phones, land line phones.
Those early days at Wedge
were really a simple time.
- [Voiceover] In the
early 70's Danny Kwock
was on the beach, I
believe, but I don't believe
he had yet gone in that water.
- First experience at the
Wedge for me was
I'd moved from
Gwaii, I've kind of
always heard about
cause I grew up at
a place by Sandy
The guys down there,
the kind of guys like Mark
Cunningham guys
that were like the
legend body surfer guys,
they'd always be talking about
the Wedge
and it was this infamous
place, even in Hawaii as a kid.
And then I moved to
California and we ended up
in Newport Beach.
I all of a sudden knew like,
this must be where the Wedge is,
I think,
it's in Newport Beach, you
know, I don't know where.
I mean, I didn't know it
was right by my house.
I just started going down
there and hanging out
and that was pretty much it, you
at the Wedge at the time.
It was just a mixture of the
local kids
and there was Romo.
Then as I started growing up
I realized why people didn't
come down,
because Romo was pretty
much like (mumbles) get out.
(machine buzzing)
- [Voiceover] Some time in the
mid 70's,
this group of guys showed up,
never seen them before,
blond haired, long haired,
but they rode well.
They had respect for the guys
that were there before them.
This new group of guys would
become to known as Wedge crew.
And Mel Thoman was its leader.
- My first experience
coming down to the Wedge
I think I was 14 or 15.
I think anybody who comes down
thinks it's gonna be big.
It's the Wedge, it's gonna be
you've just heard stories.
I got there and it was like one
So, 60 miles one way,
one foot, not too happy.
But, a couple years later, it
was 1975
and it was June, solid southern
and it was, it was a good size.
And I remember standing on the
beach for an hour and a half
and I watched the guys
who I could tell they knew
what they were doing, they were
And I thought I was pretty good.
And I get down there and I go
(laughs) I got a lot to learn.
- There was this one
summer where Mel Thoman
and Greg Deets and these
guys just rolled out
of this cheesy van that
was just so hideous.
And at the same time,
this other guy Terry Wade
was down there too.
Us kids were like, oh, who are
these guys?
Ya know, but then they
started coming every day
and they'd get there at freaking
7:00 AM
and they'd leave at like
seven o'clock at night.
- We kind of made this little
and we were the new guys, the
young guys.
- 77, that summer was the
year I really got to know
those guys really well and we
started hanging out together
and, no not getting in trouble.
Well, not getting caught I
should say.
- For some reason, it
became a very large group
that would go there every day,
whether there were waves or not.
The group was very united
and I think that's why
it became the Wedge crew.
I don't know who coined the
but it kind of started
in that min 70's era
where I came in at.
(upbeat, rock music)
(waves crashing)
(upbeat, rock music)
- You could tell right
away who the players were
down at the Wedge and you
just knew to stay clear
and just stay low.
- The Wedge guys saw themselves
as kind of rebellious,
non-mainstream and they regaled
in that.
- They had a lot of
They became the locals.
They kind of like were jerks to
who weren't from here.
- You had all the guys in the
thought the exact same way.
This is our wave and nobody
else is gonna mess it up
for us.
- There's definitely a
local Wedge crew and--
- [Voiceover] They don't like
anybody invading their turf.
- They don't like (laughs).
- When I first
went there,
everybody was,
it was
I mean, everybody had
their fucking balls
- For the Wedge guys,
yeah it is a little bit
of a different story because
that wave isn't about just fun,
it's about pushing yourself to
your limit.
(upbeat, rock music)
- The body surfer Wedge guys
were like water polo lifeguard,
buff, stud dudes, you know.
So, they didn't take crap from
- You'd get the standard
warning, you know?
If you were an idiot and
you cut you off or something
and they landed on you,
you'd say, listen man,
don't do that again.
And if they did it again, well,
sometimes we'd follow them on
the beach.
- [Voiceover] The Wedge crew.
- [Brunette] The Wedge crew.
- [Blonde] Yeah.
- [Voiceover] We're in the Wedge
- [Both] Yeah.
- [Voiceover] Are they gonna
kick our butts for being here?
- Ya know and it was funny
cause they came down in shorts
at first and then all of sudden
they'd just bust into
Speedos and we're just all,
whoa, you know?
- When I first starting riding,
it was Speedos under the
trunks, get down to the water,
drop the trunks, ride in your
And then, eventually we said,
You know what, we're
the best guys down here.
We were here all the time
so why don't we just
wear 'em on the beach?
Because we didn't care.
We didn't care what anybody
thought of us.
- You know, it was their trip
and they made fun of themselves.
They made it like funny to wear
- And the only time I
wouldn't wear Speeds,
Romanaosky and I did a lot of
He'd say, Mel, there's no
way I'm throwing the Frisbee
with you wearing Speedos.
- But it was funny, I think
they kind of won us all over
and kind of established their
because they were freely
charismatic, you know?
Like, Mel was super funny
and just was really good
with the jibber jabber and
keeping Romo
from getting pissed off at
him and making him laugh.
And he knew quickly, like,
Romo was the guy that
gets waves, you know.
- [Voiceover] Oh my God, that's
Uh oh, Ron just ripping it.
Alright, he's stoked, that was
(gentle, strumming music)
- [Voiceover] Despite those
Speedos, they were wave riders.
They brought a new energy to
and that energy on the sand
right into the water.
They set the bar higher
than it had ever been.
- I think we just kept going and
and more people would kind of
come in
and if they had that same verve,
they had that verve, that love.
It was like, let's go.
You know, and you have that
same soul, that same heart,
that same love.
- The art of body surfing
and the soulfulness
of body surfing that the
Wedge crew was all about,
even though they love their fun,
they were purist body surfers,
you know.
And they loved that art form.
- There is something special
about being on that wave
with nothing but your body.
And, it's difficult.
It's not easy.
So, when you score a ride body
it's the greatest feeling in the
because you're one with the
- There's no better way to
ride a wave in body surfing.
There's just something special
about it
that you just can't beat it.
- Body surfing down at the
Wedge really started peaking
with notoriety and people
seeing body surfers
as more than just guys that,
oh, they don't know how to surf
or body board or do whatever.
It's like, no, no, body
surfing's like a full-on deal
in its own.
- I always say the wave got me
and the people kept me there
because here I get down there
and it's,
everybody body surfs.
This is it, this is where I
(gentle, pop music)
- [Voiceover] Fun with Mel's
it wasn't long before a new crop
of kids started showing up.
These young guys, they were so
you know, showing just
incredible style.
- When we first showed up,
we were so afraid of the crew
and they were such a unique
group of individuals.
They had such
flair, style.
They wore Speedos with
all sorts of colors.
Did things on waves we couldn't
And we were just in awe of them.
- I would go out there and
Romo would tell me to leave,
Jeff Stack would tell me to
You know, Terry Wave, even
Mel, get out of here (grunts).
That went on literally for
- You had to prove yourself.
And to prove yourself meant
taking off
some ugly, ugly stuff.
- [Voiceover] Uh- oh.
Oh, wait a minute.
Who was that?
- And finally working yourself
up that little hierarchy
to get some better waves and
better waves.
And then eventually showing
that you can handle it and be
- [Voiceover] Panama Rick.
Panama Rick in the barrel.
- They talked about us,
we talked about them
and it just took, it
took probably five years
before we were
semi-integrated into the crew.
- [Voiceover] Back to Phil.
Phil, anything else you wanna
say to the folks at home?
- I thought I had some good
waves today.
- [Voiceover] I saw you
ripping out there but--
- Mel try not to speak,
I thought I rode well.
- I think you finally
knew you were in the crew
when then gave you a nickname.
And my nickname had to be Panama
because my face was always red.
And Mel had a fish named Panama.
It was this red fish.
I got the name Panama cause
my face looked like his fish.
- Mel, where did Mel come from?
It's Kevin, Kevin Feldman.
I have no idea where Mel came
- Terry Sack Wade.
Sack had to do with more of his
then it does with his huge wave
- The sack or the bat
wing because his nut sack
was so big, he'd stretch it
out and do this at parties
when he was drunk, it was just
- We had a nickname for Tom.
He was this huge guy with red
and we called him Sasquatch.
- It was actually Sasquatch
from my high school friends
and it was a Wedge crew
member that said I believe
that his friends call him
- We would hear this, what
we thought was Cashbox
and we'd call guys with
big asses, box asses.
So, we thought that was perfect.
You know, big guy, big ass
- I got guys that come up to me,
they go,
hey, Cash, I had no idea you
had a real name Tom Kennedy.
I go, I do.
I'm Tom Kennedy, Cashbox is my
But everybody in that
community had a very fun,
cool personality and
that's what really made
the Wedge crew what it was.
- The stuff we used to do as
a crew, it was all about fun.
I mean, my whole thing was
like, this is the most fun
anybody could ever have
was riding the Wedge.
Well I'm so tired
Why don't you
- Mel kind of became the
root of this group of guys
kind of coming together.
- Mel was the guy who you could
was kind of like the
mayor down there, right?
You had Fred Simpson
who was the president,
you had Terry Wade who
was maybe an all-star.
Tom Kennedy was a comedian.
And you had Mel, the mayor.
- [Voiceover] Mel Toman, for
example, has a BA from USC
but he chooses to stock
grocery shelves at night
so the waves have him all day
He even records a daily
wave report for others
like Tom Kennedy, who
runs an insurance agency
but still calls Mel two
or three times every day.
- He was the guy that would
bring all those (laughs).
He'd bring all those like blow
up toys
with like dragons and
whatever down to the beach
and ride waves with them.
I'd just be like, really guy,
where do you come up with this,
you know?
- He had a different vision,
I think, than all of us.
I think we were like wave,
wave, wave, wave, wave,
you know?
And I think Mel was sort of
He was sort of like wave, wave,
but let's do something special
about the wave, wave, wave,
wave, wave.
And so, he initiated this
crazy thing every year,
at the end of the year,
Mel's tanning contest.
- [Voiceover] The tanning
tournaments were just
the most ridiculously
fun time you could have.
It was like the end of our year.
It was like Academy Awards of
the beach.
- [Voiceover] Quarterbacked by
Mel Thoman,
he would buy trophies.
- [Voiceover] What is
the even you're hoping
to win this year?
- I'm looking for, obviously,
look at the farmers.
- [Voiceover] Give us the full
- Full frontal?
- [Voiceover] Yeah.
- [Voiceover] And, all the guys
would come down to the beach
and tan for one full day.
I mean, this became an
annual event in Newport Beach
and it was great.
- [Voiceover] And Ivan, Ivan was
Seeing this big, six foot, 300
pound guy
with a giant beer belly
tanned beyond belief,
strutting around in their
Speedo was pretty funny.
- It wasn't about look
how beautiful we are,
it was, we'd have the farmer's
We'd have the casper for
the most whitest person.
We'd have, just joke awards.
- [Voiceover] Blondest hair,
lobster award for the worst
You know, best legs.
For girls, we had best diamonds.
- [Voiceover] Top lines,
breast lines (laughs).
(beachgoers chattering)
- We had some creative trophies.
- We would come up and
(clapping) and for best dorsel
and somebody would get the
and everybody would clap.
- Sara, best dressed from
(cheering drowns out speaker)
(cheering and applause)
- It tied in to girls, it tied
into guys,
it tied in to different ages.
You had guys that were
back to like 40, you know.
And guys like Dustin who were
like 20
and it was just, again, it was
he functioned, I think, as a
It kind of sewed a lot of us
- What's incredible is
that all of these people
we want to be around
are all some different
and they would have these
- [Voiceover] Malarchy.
- [Voiceover] Easy.
- [Voiceover] It's not my fault.
- [Voiceover] Atta boy, Mel.
- They were crazy and as a
I was like, you know,
the kid in Almost Famous
just watching these body
surfing heroes of mine
and guys I just really
respected, you know.
- You wanted to be at the
parties cause they showed film.
- Yeah, those special
films and slides, it's--
- You gotta be crazy to go.
(girls laugh)
- [Voiceover] That doesn't sound
too wild.
- It is.
- It is.
- A lot of people don't make it
- You know, this guy Dale
Kovach would show the videos.
Mel would videotape during
the day of all the rides
and people would sit
there at these parties
and just pound beers
and critique each other.
- Then the slides would come up
and the heckling would
start and it was just like,
who rode what and how big it was
and who claimed the best wave.
(people shouting and cheering)
- Going to a couple of Romo's
I just about peed my pants on
the heckling
and the catcalling and the
peanut gallery at those things.
And, it's just really
neat to see guys so stoked
and so passionate.
- We were watching 'em and
the guys would be hooting
and hollering and everybody's,
you know,
it just brought us together
I don't know if anybody
really studied the films.
- We studied that film.
We would borrow those video
tapes from Mel
and watch 'em over and
over, me and the young guys,
because we wanted a
ride like the older guys
and ride the best.
Because they literally had the
best style.
- [Voiceover] In the 60's,
you had guys with no style.
And the first endless summer,
you watch guys riding waves,
or rather, getting pitched.
But around that same time,
body surfing was blessed
with a guy by the name of Fred
He was the first one to put his
lead hand
on the face of the wave
and get his other arm back.
He navigated a wave the way a
board would.
Then you get into the 70's,
and that big group of guys,
where Terry Wade was a bit
ahead of everyone else.
- [Voiceover] We're
visiting a customer here.
- Hi there, I'm Allen
Hamill, what's your name?
- Terry Wade.
- And Terry, do you
shop here at Alpha Beta?
- No, I don't.
- What?
- I don't shop.
- You don't shop at Alpha Beta?
- No.
- You're--
- My first impression of
Terry was my first year
to guarding there on
my first real big day.
Like, legit, 20, 25 foot day.
You would just see this red
Speedo going from the peak
all the way to cylinders and
it was the same guy every time.
I said, who is that guy?
And, that's when I first
heard Terry Wade's name.
And he was one of the best
I'd ever seen out there.
- You know, it's important
to know that there were a lot
of big wave riders at
the Wedge but Terry Wade,
by far, not only took
off on the biggest waves
ever in the history of probably
body surfing in general,
but he actually rode the wave.
And, what I saw him do 1983 was
the most amazing thing ever.
The biggest wave, the biggest
swell in the history for me,
you know, 40 some years, and
Terry rode the biggest waves.
(upbeat, pop music)
- I was there in 1983 when I saw
charge these monster sets
and I'm just looking at it
and I go, I'm witnessing
This is off the charts.
(sniffling) It was amazing.
Anyway, so I was there
and, sorry about that,
but you know, he's such a good
And, you know, it just is
tough to see what the Wedge
has done to him as far as his
It kind of, you know,
we joked around the Wedge ruined
my life
but physically I think
it really took its toll
on him, especially.
And that's sad.
But Terry, you know, he's just
(bright, strumming music)
- [Voiceover] Due to multiple
and life changing injuries
suffered at Wedge, Terry
could no longer body surf.
He no longer lives in Newport
Beach but in Taft, California.
Three hours inland.
- If you ride Wedge long
enough, you're gonna get hurt.
There's no way to avoid
it, it's gonna happen.
- I've seen broken arms and
broken necks as a lifeguard
and you'd have a dozen
neck injuries every summer.
Out of the dozen you had,
there'd be one or two
that were serious where
it was permanent injuries
and that was always tough to
- One time in 1978, on a big day
a dead body washed up
next to big D and me.
We pulled him in and
they tried to revive him
but he was, they pronounced him
at Hope a couple hours later.
- Here's how many deaths
I've seen there in the water.
One, two, let's see,
one, two, three, four.
Four people died.
- There's a famous story
of the Wedge of these women
that went down below the
burm line on a big swell
and the lifeguard didn't
get down and talk to them
early enough.
They just were down playing
and thinking that the water
was gonna wash up and get their
ankles wet
like any normal beach.
And the Wedge is not a normal
and they don't know the danger
they're in.
And the waves swept up and
took 'em off their feet
and they were gone.
They just disappeared.
- [Voiceover] The other one
may get stuck, she's rolling.
Look at that, look out, look
You're gonna get hammered again.
(women screaming)
Oh jeez, get the lifeguard.
- [Voiceover] Better get going.
- [Voiceover] Holy hell.
Oh shit.
Getting sucked out.
JT, how is she?
- She was--
- [Voiceover] Is she okay?
- You know how hard it was to
get her--
- [Voiceover] JT, lifesaver.
That ones okay, we hope.
Her mom or whatever having a
tough time.
- [Voiceover] What makes
the Wedge so dangerous?
- It's just the angle of the
and the way it throws out.
It's a steeper break and it
breaks into very shallow water.
Just down from the peak
break it can break into
absolutely no water at all.
And if you don't know what
you're doing,
or even if you do know what
you're doing,
sometimes you fall, free
fall, and hit the bottom.
(dramatic music)
- [Voiceover] They generally
wear fins
so they can get enough speed
to make it down the face
before they would get thrown.
And that's why we generally try
to keep
the inexperienced public out of
the water
to save them from possibly
life threatening injuries.
- I've had broken collar bones.
Thank God, I haven't had a
broken neck.
There's plenty of that out here.
- I dropped in on about a four
foot wave
and it sucked up and I was at
the top
and I went straight down and
hit my head on the bottom
and broke my neck.
- You have to be a little bit
crazy though
to get out there when it's like
- Absolutely.
- And that Pacific storm is
having an impact right here
churning up high surf and
monster waves
along the southland coast.
- My relationship with the Wedge
was, it was almost kind
of like bi-polar almost.
Like, one of those things
where there was such a rush
and high and stoke but
there was such a fear
of death from it.
Like, seriously, like, it was
just so like one or the other
and it was zero in between.
And so, living right there
and hearing the big surf
all the time, I'd be so pumped
but at the same time I would be
is tomorrow the day I die,
you know, is the day I drown?
- If there's a big south
swell in California,
guaranteed Wedge is gonna
be the big spot, you know.
And, it's the nature of
the beast of the Wedge
that shits gonna go down
on a big, heavy day.
- Big days at Wedge, there's
so much that goes along
with that.
You know, not being able
to sleep the night before
and thinking about what you're
going to do
and where you're gonna put
- [Voiceover] I would just be so
that I would almost puke.
I'd almost puke in the night
I'd almost puke in the morning.
- Like, on a big day, to not be
or have a little bit of fear,
you gotta be a little loony
or actually really loony.
- You want to survive,
you don't want to die
so you're thinking about that.
And you want to perform and
so you're thinking about that.
But excited, you know,
excited, you can't wait.
Cause you want it, you want it
but you wanna do it right.
- Riding a big wave at
the Wedge body surfing
is the best thing you can do in
the water.
It's like jumping off of
a cliff and landing it.
And what's big, big, what you
usually see
is the top of roofs.
- I've heard that when
the waves get really big
you can actually go over a
set and see over the houses
into the bay, over the bay.
Which I thought was bullshit.
And, a swell came through it was
and sure enough, I went
over a set and I could see
over the houses into the back
and I was like, you gotta be
kidding me.
- You're like, here we go.
Your feet go over your head
and your flaying, you're like,
am I gonna stay on the face
or am I flying?
And, you do everything
you can to navigate it
but there's nothing else
going through your brain
other than get me down the face
and I better stick my turn at
the bottom.
And when you do, you come up,
and you watch the guys pulling
the barrel,
it's just all smiles.
(people shouting and cheering)
(upbeat, rock music)
- The fact that the wave
is so close to the beach,
you know, proximity, you
get that crowd factor.
It wouldn't matter if the
crowd was there or not,
we'd still be doing what we're
but it certainly elevates things
and it just adds to the
circus of the whole place
that it's just electric.
- Those crowds on the beach,
random, eclectic people
from all over the world,
tourists, whatever,
just watching and hoping and
someone was gonna eat crab,
break their neck, die.
Sick as it sounds, people wanted
- Let's be straight up.
It's a scene.
It's a big, crazy, powerful
wave breaking so close to shore
where it's so spectator
- And you got the water
splashing up.
I mean like, water is taking
people out.
It's almost dangerous that
are even standing that close.
- I mean, what a special place,
you know.
Every summer it's like the
to the Super Bowl of body
All these elements come together
and you get a couple lunatics
out there
charging these massive waves.
- The thing that makes
it so unique, the Wedge,
it's a man-made mistake, it was
it is.
But for us, it's a man-made
because we love it and we go out
and have the time of our lives.
And, it keeps us breathing,
pretty much.
The fact that we can go out
there and get our asses kicked
and go back into life
itself and be humbled
and stoked and thrilled.
So, it's a special man-made
wonderment of the world.
(bright, pop music)
(people yelling and cheering)
(machine buzzing)
- [Voiceover] You know,
Wedge had been our happy home
for decades.
Everybody was friends.
Everybody loved it.
And then a little invention came
There's something really
rolling around the USA
The Morey Boogie
Bodyboard is here to stay
Put your body on a boogie
Grab your Morey Boogie
Put your body on boogie
And you should've bought a
And you'll be surfing today
- We were down at the water one
and this comes down with us
with these boogie boards,
these little soft little
sponge looking things.
And he says, hi, my name it Tom.
I want you guys to try these
boards out.
They should let you ride the
and get better rides and stuff.
And we kind of looked at him
and go, ah, okay, whatever.
He left a couple of boards down
and the next day a pretty
good sized swell came in.
So, we started using the
boards and we'd kick on them
and kick on 'em and you'd get
the wave
and you'd start riding the
wave and then we'd fling 'em.
And we'd throw 'em, we
wouldn't ride the boogie board.
We called them diving board take
So, you'd just take off on
the boogie board to get speed
and then go down and ride
the wave and body surf.
But we didn't know that he
had photographers down there
trying to get photos for, to
sell the product at the time
and so, when we found out
there was photographers,
we never even used them.
You know, we just stopped.
But then Ramon one day,
we had a good sized swell.
He took off on a wave and he
did a diving board take off
but they got the picture of him
on the top of a really good
Wedge peak.
Well, that was on the
back of surfer magazine
and that was the beginning of
the end as far as that went.
- The problem was anybody could
ride them.
It was very easy to.
And Romo's quote of, you could
put a dead body on a boogie
and it would make the wave,
you know, that type of deal.
It allowed people that
really shouldn't be out there
to gain access to the wave.
- [Voiceover] The bodyboards
started showing up
around the mid 80's.
And, at the time it wasn't
so much of a threat.
There was only a handful of
guys that truly rode the place.
Ben Severson, JP Patterson, Mike
- I remember going there
and not really getting the
most welcome vibe, for sure.
It's kind of understandable
that they might not really
take a liking to me and
what I was doing down there.
But I think eventually, I
kind of gained some respect
and I slowly kind of worked my
way in
with a lot of those guys.
- But, as the photos started
hitting the magazines
and it progressed, it just
- When it changed was when,
and it wasn't Mike or Pat,
it was the hoards of other folks
that just couldn't control
They brought it there
and it turned into a money
making venue.
You'd see guys take a wave,
sprint out,
talk to the photographer, run
They didn't care who they were
cutting off
and that was so diametrically
to what the Wedge was all about.
It was a dichotomy that didn't
- When bodyboarding magazine
came out
and started profiling
the Wedge, of course,
and these guys, and suddenly
it was like the floodgates
were open and there'd be
more and more of them.
And, they were growing
exponentially like an amoeba
or something, just crazy.
- [Voiceover] Is that a boogie?
I ain't filming boogies.
Oh, damn it, that boogie again.
- [Voiceover] Oh Go, not a boog.
I just squeak 'em out of
the picture frame, Ron.
- Back in the
early days, body
surfers and the
knee riders,
because there
weren't any boogie
boards yet,
always got along.
- If you knew what you were
you could let 'em ride with ya
and you could knee ride
and they'd ride up behind
and you could still ride
the wave, both of you.
But the boogie board crowd
was definitely disrespectful
and it was just a whole
different crowd of people.
- What really was a big deal for
the crew
was that they weren't
accomplished water men
riding the boards most of the
There was just a few that were
The rest sucked.
- Something special was being
The heritage, a way of
living with the water
and body surfing does
that like no other sport.
And when people come into your
and knock on your door and say,
oh, by the way, we're
moving in and I'm bringing
my 500 closest friends,
things aren't gonna go well.
(people shouting)
- [Voiceover] Altercation.
(people chattering)
- There'd be fights in full-on,
like Romo would just like
seriously backhand guys out
because they would be
Just like, bro, there's rules,
there's the pecking order
out here, there's respect.
And if you're cool with that
then we're cool with you
but if you cross that line
or you come in and hog waves,
you know, the boys would just be
on 'em.
And like Romo was like the king
guy of it
and he would send guys in.
I mean, he got into it with
- Remember Romanosky was always,
he was always a tenacious guy.
I remember one time it was
pretty classic.
I can laugh at it now but
man, I wanted to just,
I came really close to just
attacking him.
And, I was all stoked, I had
this new board, you know?
I'm like, oh yeah, I just got a
new board.
And, I paddle out there and he's
oh, right cool, let me have a
And so, I show it to him
thinking he's gonna have a look
at it right, he shapes
his knee board and stuff,
he'll kind of get it.
So he grabs it, looks at
it, puts it on his head
and just folds it over his head.
- [Voiceover] But anyway,
the boogie invasion happened.
And the guys had said
that they had to do something
about it.
Mel Thoman, Terry Wade, and Tom
formed the Wedge
Preservation Society, or WPS.
- About three months ago, the
Wedge Preservation Society,
a group of body surfers
approached the marine
- We went to the lifeguards and
said hey,
is there anything we can
to somehow, you know,
get this changed?
And, so we had a process
you gotta go see the marine
the lifeguard department,
just a whole bunch of things.
- And that would be that
the Wedge be regulated
with no flotation from
nine o'clock in the morning
to again, five o'clock in the
but from the months of
May first to October 31st.
- This comes out in
the paper and suddenly,
it's like, buddies like Bill
who was one of the knee
riders that was down there
all the time, he gets
wind, they're not happy.
- I found myself personally,
as a knee boarder,
just going wait, I'm being swept
with the rest of the
garbage and did what I could
to help counteract that.
- That was an exciting time for
us, getting together as one.
Saying, we need to do something
about this
or, literally, body surfings
gonna go away for one
and two, people are gonna get
- We gained support from
other organizations.
We took our argument to the city
- Hi, how ya doing?
I'm Terry Wade and I'm
one of the co-founders
of the Wedge Preservation
Body surfers are absolutely
not the minority at the Wedge.
Minority in the world
of surfing, absolutely.
But at the Wedge, the body
it's probably the last
stronghold of body surfing
and in fact, historically is
the only beach in the world
that made a name for itself
as a body surfing beach.
It is undoubtedly the
best wave in the world
for body surfing.
And that's why we're here.
- We all dressed up, suits,
- My name is Philip Castillo and
I'm also
pro-Wedge Preservation Society.
- It's a safety issue.
You know, more and more boards.
It's more and more boards.
- Mayhem in the wave,
more than one person.
- The boogie guys and the
they all came dressed in the
beach casual
and the whole crew, we were
So, we presented our case and
you know,
Newport Beach, they loved us
- On the final decision,
that place was packed.
I mean, there was probably
five to six hundred people
jammed into this place,
standing room only.
- Let me get back to the council
and see if we can't come
up with a decision here
that will make everyone
go out of here smiling
and happy and probably hit the
- And, it ended up where
three had voted yay
and three had voted nay.
- [Voiceover] Mr. Cox?
- I'm just gonna comment that
I won't support the motion.
- And it came to this last
city council member, a woman,
who I'm gonna say, she was
probably in her late 60's,
maybe 70, had lived in Balboa a
long time.
And, it was all quiet and
everybody waiting for her
and she said--
- Well, last night my husband
happens to be a quite a young,
considers himself still
a body surfer and my son,
of course, has a board.
And he's (laughs) real conflict.
And, we ended up with
something very similar
to what the (mumbles)
motion said this evening
and I will be supporting that.
(cheering and applause)
- All hell broke loose.
We all stood up, began
celebrating, hugging,
and there was a giant parade
that went right across
the street to Malarky's.
(bright, pop music)
- I don't think anybody really
what they were fighting for
until they'd go down there
in the summer and you'd be
out and that black ball flag
would come up at 10
o'clock and all the guys
would get out of the water
and you'd just kind of go, oh,
- [Voiceover] Boogie boarders
can kiss their Styrofoam
Beginning immediately,
knee boards, skim boards,
and body boards must stay
on dry land from 10 to five
May through October.
- Well, once they put the new
ordinance in
it was like I lost a friend in
the summer.
I mean, you couldn't go down
there and knee ride anymore.
You could go down there and body
but that wasn't my gig,
I was a knee rider.
- There'd be so many days where
when they'd first started
I remember sitting on the
beach just like, really,
like and I'd just be
like seeing Mel and Terry
and all those guys just like
You know, and just laughing
it up, getting so many waves.
But I was stoked for them.
And then, but you know
what was cool about it
was when the blackball thing
I body surfed a lot more,
you know, I went out
cause I love riding Wedge.
- I told Box the other
day, I said, you know,
if anything that's kind of a
cool legacy
that we worked our tails off on.
We did it the right way
and it worked, thank God.
I mean, seriously, because
I would not be riding there.
Boom, it would've been over.
- [Voiceover] Lifeguards
believe it will take the boys
of summer a few weeks to catch
- So far the Wedge has been the
only beach
to have that rigid
separation between surfers
with boards and without them.
(machine buzzing)
- [Voiceover] Here I am a knee
and I'm stoked out of my mind
that the guys got the blackball.
The Wedge was pioneered
as a body surfing wave
and the city council helped
to protect that culture.
But waiting down that road,
the guys didn't really count
on that thing we know as time.
- When the blackball happened in
we were all hoping it would
be kind of a resurgency
in body surfing but I think
it hit at a perfect time
when a lot of the guys were
getting older
and starting families.
And, they thought they'd have
the time to get out there
and utilize the freedom they had
with no bodyboarders out there.
And, in fact, that really didn't
- After our generation
started getting older
and having kids and families
and a lot of guys moved on,
financially I guess guys
couldn't just take off
for a summer
and screw around anymore.
Ya know, that happens when
you get a mortgage and kids
and car payments and all that
- Personally, I was single
longer than most of the guys.
I was 42, almost 43.
So, I had a good 25
years of non-stop waves,
women, whiskey, you know
(upbeat, folk music)
- When you're young, you go
under waves,
it's a huge set coming in.
You're going under waves
and you are praying to God
that there's a bigger wave.
I need this to be bigger.
Bring it, bring it, bring it.
- [Voiceover] Tom Kennedy,
what's a perfect day
at the Wedge?
- Well, a lot of girls
on the beach (laughs).
- [Voiceover] (laughs) The
- And, I like a big wave of
As you age and you become more
you hope not that there's bigger
- Having a family and four
boys I would just flash
every time I was out there
when I'd take some poundings,
ya know?
This could be the last,
ya know, and I'm like,
I wanna see my kids
graduate from high school
or get married one day, ya know,
those things started going
through my mind
and as like an athlete
knowing when to walk away
from their profession or their
(people chattering)
- You gotta wash your
hands off in the water.
- [Voiceover] Dale's gone
from distributing vibe
to distributing goldfish
(kids chattering)
- Ya know, there was a depleted
Wedge crew
and it was really sad
because you didn't wanna see
the division or you didn't
wanna see people moving on
with their lives.
You wanted to see people
still show up everyday.
- There was that period,
it was 15 to 20 years ago
because all the skimming
came in and the sponging,
body surfing kind of went out
and there were no younger guys
doing it.
And, a few of us were
worried that body surfing
was actually gonna die out at
the Wedge.
- With '89 being my year of
starting my Wedge body surfing
and becoming a part of the
- [Voiceover] The boats, boaty.
Oh, where'd he go?
- But I recall showing up at the
and none of the guys I
knew were there anymore.
They were all gone.
I was on the beach by
myself for days on end,
riding waves by myself
with guys I had no idea
who they were.
And, the glory of the
Wedge crew kind of went off
by the wayside with the
advent of the boogie board.
That was it.
- The idea of crew was, and
riding Wedge
was held together from the
most unexpected places.
Some of the fringe riders of
Wedge and it really surprising
if you look back and
think about, you know,
some of those guys like Gene.
- When I first started going to
the Wedge,
I was really not a good body
I was just learning.
I was 42 years old and
I was learning a sport
so, I was treated like
shit for a long time.
But, I just stuck it
out because I loved it.
- Gene was kind of a good figure
to add in
to the 21st century for a lot of
It was like, okay,
here's an old guy that's
pulling the weight still.
(waves crashing)
- [Voiceover] Mean Gene.
- [Voiceover] Was that Gene?
- The first kid to come in
and started making body
surfing cool was Sean Starky.
There was no other kid
that filled that gap.
- I remember body surfing one
day, it was two to three foot,
I remember taking a side
wave across the sand
and I'm kind of laying there in
the sand
and there's this guy, arms
crossed, looking down at me,
super tan in a Speedo.
Potato Head they called him.
Kind of looking at me
going, what's your name?
My name's Sean.
It was like, alright,
I like your style man,
I like what you're all about.
You should come down here more
Then he just walks away.
- That's when I said to myself,
we have a gap here, we
need to stop the loss
of young body surfers and we
need to start incorporating
that back into Wedge crew
and build our ranks up
so we can have, at any given
a force to reckoned with in the
Not for mischief and
mayhem but of camaraderie,
of good times, of stories, of
wave riding,
pushing each other to do
bigger, better things.
- [Voiceover] The need
for a new generation
of body surfers was there.
And, with Potato Head
being the den mother,
or what have you, he saw to
it that he had a whole flock.
- First experience at Wedge
was swimming across the channel
with my cousin Ozzy and
first person I meet is Potato
and Potato's like, what
are you doing here?
And I'm like, just getting some
waves man.
Potato's like, you're body
surfing wrong.
And so, I'm like, okay how
do body surf correctly?
And then he kind of did his
weird thing.
But that was the first,
literally the first time
we actually went out, had a good
was with John, was like,
first approaching it.
- I saw it was a work in
Potato Head was down
there building a new crew.
You could see it had potential
and I was glad to be home
because I wanted to help
cultivate that.
- I kind of made the conscious
where I wanna be a Wedge tree
I wanna be a part of this.
Sure enough, you know,
after putting in a summer,
they guys kind of starting
taking notice of this young kid
who's swimming, I would swim in
- The one thing that we
try to do as older riders
was let 'em know that there
was kind of like a hierarchy.
For one, I wanted to get my
But two, wanted them to kind
of go through a little bit
of what I did and what we all
that made us better.
It wasn't to discourage them.
It was to make sure they
we want you ride here but
we want you to ride here
and consider yourself being the
We want you to ride and
respect to the path.
And so, we had to kind of like,
we wanted to cultivate that.
- And, there was like, alright,
we have some young blood here.
We have some fresh stuff coming
We're gonna push the limits.
I'd like to call them
kind of like my stable
of young rippers that
are out there riding.
They're all getting older now
but we're filling the pipe line
Their friends are coming
down and just a good time.
It's getting fun again.
- Potato Head, he really
is probably the glue
that holds our whole young crew
- The first person to talk
to me was Gene, for sure.
Seeing him say, oh, hey, how's
it going.
Or, oh, that was a good wave.
That meant the world.
Getting acknowledgment from your
or people you're looking
up to or striving to be
is huge.
- Like what Gene used to do.
They would talk to you,
they would be down there
give your pointers.
Oh hey, nice ride kid, keep it
Just little things like that.
Then you'd have these other guys
like Lee
or even some of the
Larsons where it's like,
they won't say a word to
you and like, that's okay.
You're gonna wait for them to
say the word
cause like when they talk
to you it's like a big deal.
- The fact that everyone's
such a tight knit group
and is constantly pushing
each other in the water
that's why you see the type of
that's going on down there.
- It's really a testament
to how everyone has each other's
- So, whenever someone
gets hurt down there,
there is a tight unity,
kind of brotherhood,
where we're always
calling each other saying,
hey, did you hear,
what's his name got hurt.
Say, oh, is he okay?
No, he's at the hospital.
Alright, we'll go visit
him here, what's happening?
- For Gene, when he was in the
we had guys in there almost
every day visiting him,
helping him and his family
out every way we could.
- I hurt myself on March
30th in a year ago, 2012.
It was a smaller day that turned
like a 10, 12 foot day, 15
foot day later that day.
But when I got in at 11 or
12 it was not much going on
and I took off on like head high
maybe something like that.
I remember I got hit,
I slammed really hard.
I saw a bright light.
Like, this magnificent bright
but it wasn't a spiritual thing
it was my spine exploding I
I just came up and I knew I was
I had broken nine ribs,
you wanna hear this?
I had broken nine ribs,
punctured a lung,
broke my T nine, 10, 11 and my
and nicked my spinal cord
but I didn't severe my spinal
That's why I'm sitting here
So, it was a mother fucker.
It fucked me up.
- When he got hurt, we, it was
cause here's a guy that rides
only purely
because he's stoked and riding
It's the last person you
wanna see get hurt, right?
A person that deserves
to ride the place forever
and then some.
But, what happened was he had
just like a positive attitude
and he got through some
stuff that was just amazing.
- I went back down to the
Wedge first chance I could
and I wasn't sure I wanted
to go back but I did.
- We could see him coming
from where we kind of sit
next to the rock.
We see Gene walking up, you
see the silhouette of a guy
carrying a cane.
Everyone's eyes pretty much lit
(upbeat, pop music)
- Just like the first time
he came down to the beach
I got pretty teary eyed about it
because he really, you know,
I was like, God damn it,
this old man is not giving up.
- I've had many grown
men come up to me and cry
and give me a hug and
tell me they're so glad
that I'm alright and just
the spirit of the Wedge
as I felt it, it's been, it's
it's a great thing.
And, especially the Wedge guys,
I wanna thank them so much
for just being there for me
and it was, I wish I
could explain it better
but it was just a really
great and special experience
for me for my whole life.
I'll never forget it.
And I thank them all
the time and that's it.
(flags flapping)
(waves crashing)
- Gene, to the day he died, when
he was,
he would be out there,
shitty waves, great waves
and he was always pumped.
- He was just the nicest, most
genuine guy
you will ever meet in your life.
Welcoming and kind to everyone,
wave rider or not.
Not just at Wedge but in life.
That's how, that's truly how he
- I think Gene's stoke brought
us together
and knowing what's fun about
And, I think Gene's legacy had
us realize
how close we need to be to each
And, I just remember everybody
showing up
to his funeral and how we felt
about it.
And how we all felt as brothers
Ya know, sharing our grief
and that we need to
have each other's backs
and remember how stoked
Gene was in riding.
When I go down to the Wedge now,
I think about him and I smile.
I don't like weep I just get
because that's how much fun he
would have.
You're still the one to break
my heart
You're still the one to tear
it apart
You're still the one to call
me names
As if all I ever wanted
All I ever wanted was pain
You're still the one to break
my heart
You're still the one to tear
it apart
You're still the one to call
me names
As if all I ever wanted
All I ever wanted was pain
- [Voiceover] His memorial
was a great thing,
a touching thing.
It brought everyone together,
young guys, old guys.
It cemented the group.
Then we got Hurricane Marie.
The greatest hurricane
swell I've ever witnessed.
I think at times, could these
have been a gift from Gene?
(upbeat, electronic music)
- There hasn't been the
mystical 20 foot hurricane swell
since the 90's, right?
And you see in a few weeks
out, this thing could happen.
- It gets all the hype.
Like, oh, alright sure,
it's gonna be big, whatever.
It's gonna be big hurricane,
the angles right, everything.
I'll believe it when I see it.
Then a week rolls in and the
forecast kind of improves.
Like, oh, okay, this thing might
shapen up
still kind of hold my excitement
and then like two days before is
oh, okay, something's happened
and we're getting waves.
It's gonna line up,
it's gonna be, you know,
hopefully ideal.
- Didn't sleep well the night
I woke up, looked at
the cam, it was pumping.
Went down and saw the crowd.
It was going down, a lot was
going on.
- You start to get the jitters
and like,
me and my other young friends
who ride it
were just so amped to get this
and we knew this was gonna be
the time.
Like, this swells like
our chance to really show
like the young crew is
here, we're here to stay
and we ride well.
(fast-paced, rock music)
Contraption every night
Paint out the lights
It stops all the feel ups
That go under the tables
Is that what they say
Is that what they say
Is that what they say
And I am destination
The jewel of a song
A well cut appetite
A spread that has been wasted
Is that what they say
Is that what they say
Is that what they say
(water rushing)
(waves crashing)
- Hurricane Marie, I mean,
as everyone knows and says
was the swell, right?
But what really pushed
it over the top for me,
what made the swell so
special and something
that I will personally always
isn't necessarily always
gonna be the waves
but it's what the day really
and just how symbolic it was
for almost like the changing of
the guard.
Seeing all these guys like
Teddy, Charlie, James,
all these young kids step
up and ride just amazing.
It was a huge deal and
seeing all the support
from the old guys who
could've gone in anyway
if they wanted to, they could
burn us
in every if they want and we
would've been fine with that
but they're giving us waves, ya
giving us the chance to prove
And, I think they're happy
to see what they saw.
Run river run
Carry me to the ocean
- I think as we get older,
you lose your selfishness over
the place.
You realize that it's
what it is, it's a wave,
and it's not there just for us.
It's there for the guys when we
had it,
we'd go, oh my God, yeah,
we're the best generation ever,
we had more better wave riders,
much crap.
We rode it and everybody loved
that's all there is to it.
Everybody was together
because we loved that wave
and we tried to get that stoke
go to the next generation down.
Even the younger kids, I
mean, they've got at that age
what we had at their age.
You can see it and it
just makes me feel good
to see kids really love that
I just don't know
- The Wedge means everything to
For me, I think that my
favorite thing that can happen
down there is you'll
take off on a nice peak,
catch it all the way in,
they'll be on the inside
and you see your buddy
take off on the very next one,
you through your hands up, you
that's when you get stoked.
That's the good stuff.
That's what Wedge means to me.
- I think the bottom
line is you're doing it
because of fun.
Life should be fun.
And I said for us, this is the
- Wedge is like made my life
and it's also ruined my life
in many ways.
My neck hurts every single
morning when I wake up.
My hips busted pretty much.
Sometimes I just wake up and my
hip hurts.
But literally I wouldn't change
that's ever happened to me at
because the friends I've
met, the waves I've gotten
and just the overall good
times I've had out there
has made every sacrifice
I've ever had to make
completely worth it for
that wave and that vibe
and everything that you get down
I wouldn't change it for the
and I can't wait to show
my son the same exact thing
I've done down there
and I hope he follows in
those footsteps, for sure.
- It's one of those things
where now where I look at
the photos of it and I see all
the posts
and I'm just like so
stoked for the new crew
that's riding it, that's like
enjoying it
and it's still the same old
dirty old Wedge, you know,
it's still the same.
Where I go
I don't know
Where I go
- [Voiceover] My last wave
was in the fall of 2008
and it's still on my mind.
I still think about it.
I dream about it.
I have nightmares about it.
I was a wave rider, a knee
boarder and Wedge was my spot.
So I run river run
Carry me to the ocean
As long as you're in motion
I will go
See that California sun
I know I'm getting closer
I got no destination
But I just got to go
Run river run
Let that city fade behind me
They're never gonna find me
where I go
See that sun sinking low
Let it pull me to the ocean
I don't know where I'm going
But I just got to go
- Welcome to Coastal Focus.
Southern California's long
been know for its surfing
and one of the most unique
and wild surf spots around
is right here in Newport Beach.
I'm Sherry Lynn Deganheart,
stay with us as we take
a look at the Wedge.
- [Voiceover] Incredible,
red flag, blackball and Ivan
all tanning away here at the
JT, checking his unit and
he is glad it's still there.
- [Voiceover] For now dealing,
one of the top body surfers of
all time,
Mr. Terry Wade, gives the thumbs
up sign,
unfortunately he doesn't
realize that the surf
is not too happening as we
- [Voiceover] Jeff, I got a view
that I just love to view
These young ladies could need
saving guys,
don't forget that.
- [Voiceover] What type of
guys are in the Wedge crew?
- [Voiceover] Yeah, what kind
of guys are crazy enough to?
- Guys that are crazy
enough to ride 30 feet waves
and take it and not get hurt.
- Hello, I'm Cashbox and we're
looking for
the dooply doop bird.
Oh, and here comes one right
Hello, sir (laughs)
- [Voiceover] Apparently
the Dumbo ride is down
and, well, how do you feel about
that sir.
- I'm extremely bummed out.
I was really looking forward
to going on the Dumbo ride.
- [Voiceover] Is that your
favorite ride here at the D
- Well, you know, I like it a
Maybe they'll just let us ride--
- [Voiceover] Thank you very
much sir.
(upbeat, rock music)
- [Voiceover] Ladies and
he was out of last week's swell
because of an enlarged left
I'm kind of wondering
if the grapefruit size
has gone down at all.
We'll be interviewing him when
he comes up
and we'll probably interview
his left testicle also.
- [Voiceover] A lot of
you guys in the Wedge crew
have been wondering how the MCCS
That's the Mel Cinema Crewmation
And, I'm glad to show you.
First we have matches,
of course film,
and my trusty canover aid.
You take the matches, okay
Wait, stop.
It's not lighting.
- [Voiceover] Look at that.
Incredible move, I think
he'd probably get a 20,
20 to 40 points on that one
Waving to the crowd.
Perfect execution for the
Good job JT.
(upbeat, rock music)
(people cheering)
(people laughing)
- Welcome down to the Wedge.
Come on down, ride a
wave, break your neck.
We don't care.
(gentle, acoustic music)