Surfs up! Crowds flock to California beaches
Surfs up! Crowds flock to California beaches A person surfs at the Wedge in Newport Beach, California (AP photos)
Surfs up! Crowds flock to California beaches
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Hundreds of spectators lined the beach and gasped, cheered and clapped as bodysurfers braved 15-foot waves at The Wedge, a Newport Beach, California break known for its powerful waves.

The thrill of challenging the walls of churning water created by a major storm thousands of miles away lured bodysurfer Robin Mohr out of bed before sunrise.

He was panting on the sand after a wave sent him tumbling through the foamy chop. A trickle of blood was on his forehead, where he'd been smacked by a surfboard earlier in the day.

"You're just super-alert to where you're positioned, because the worst-case scenario is you land with your head on the sand," said Mohr, 50, a South African who drove from San Diego to Newport Beach.

Big surf has been pounding south-facing sections of the Southern California coast since May 3, keeping lifeguards busy and attracting daring surfers and bodysurfers with boards, wetsuits and fins in tow.

The highest California surf was expected the next day, kicked up by the Southern Hemisphere storm. Six- to 8-foot waves were recorded at Santa Monica, with slightly higher surf in neighboring Venice.

The Behr family from Colorado brought their sons, 1-year-old Cole and 3-year-old Max, to the beach for what their father David Behr called a once-in-a-lifetime experience.

"We've been to Hawaii a few times and whenever you can catch some big waves, just watching it is incredible," he said, between snapping pictures and pointing out extra-big waves to his younger son.

Newport Beach saw 55,000 visitors over the weekend. Even so, more lifeguards were on duty Monday, May 4 than usual because of the high surf, said Newport Beach Chief Lifeguard Rob Williams.

The rough conditions extended north along the California coast to San Luis Obispo County. Avalon, Port San Luis, San Simeon and Cayucos could see currents capable of dislodging moored vessels and docks, forecasters said.

"Inexperienced swimmers should definitely stay out of the water," Seal Beach police Sgt. Ron LaVelle said.

Lifeguards pulled 17 people out of the water over the weekend off Newport Beach. It was the busiest weekend for lifeguards since March, when 134 people were rescued during a weekend of big waves and warm weather.

Critical thinking challenge: Why would conditions vary from city to city?

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Assigned 13 times

  • 1MaddyR
    5/12/2015 - 11:12 a.m.

    i wish i new how to surf or at lest been there . it would be so sweet to see big waves and watch people surf them exspale cause it doesn't happen that much . i hope all the people the life grads had to save are of though.

  • TaylorHartman-Ste
    5/12/2015 - 12:59 p.m.

    I would love to be able to watch people perform in surfing competitions and if I had the money, I would definitely be interested in going that far to experience that.

  • katiemay11
    5/12/2015 - 01:16 p.m.

    I think it's crazy how 55,000 people came to California for the beaches. 15 foot waves are extremely high, no wonder they came! Body surfer, Robin Mohr, says you must be very careful when you position yourself on a surfboard. It must have been one of the busiest days for the lifeguards. I researched and found out that a lifeguard has to work 37 hours a week and during one week may have to perform several rescues.

  • TehyaWhite-Ste
    5/12/2015 - 01:21 p.m.

    The ocean doesn't have the same currents and tides in every spot; it varies on the spot's relation to the moon and things like that. Plus just because the weather is nice in one town doesn't mean it isn't raining in the next town over.

  • BrigitteA-3
    5/12/2015 - 11:38 p.m.

    Lately, more and more adventurous surfers and body surfers were drawn to The Wedge in Newport Beach. Eight to fifteen feet waves were seen and drew the attention of people in California. Due to the recent storms, the surf was up, and more and more people were drawn to the beach to witness these fearless surfers take on the challenge of surfing the waves. Over the weekend Newport Beach saw more than 55,000 spectators come out to see the huge waves. I think it would be neat to witness someone surfing those waves but I would be scared to try that myself.

  • rositap-Che
    5/14/2015 - 01:44 p.m.

    I heard that Cali had some of the best beaches but I can't say anything cause I haven't seen or been there. California are losing water rapidly due to dryness and global warming.

  • chriss-Koc
    5/17/2015 - 09:32 p.m.

    this is really cool, 15 foot waves are huge! I'm glad the weather is heating up and the waves are getting bigger because I love summer, and noting says summer like the beach and 15 foot waves.

  • brandonj-Koc
    5/18/2015 - 02:33 p.m.

    The beaches in new port in California bring people all over from California tourists to come to these beaches but the main attractions is surfing this brings a sport back to the tidal waves of new port and will only increase in the near future.

  • 15Q4rocketsvb11
    5/19/2015 - 01:37 p.m.

    I'd be scared to ride a 15ft wave! I've always wanted to lean how to surf it seems really fun. If I was on a beach and saw people doing that I'd be taking pictures and texting my friends about it.

  • daynaf-Koc
    5/22/2015 - 08:46 p.m.

    Well the weather and water conditions and popularity conditions vary city to city, because it depends on how big the waves are, as well as, how popular the beach is. I find it quite amazing that all of those people went out just to watch people surf and watch the waves. I wish I went out to watch.

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