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. It's a Newport Beach, California break known for its powerful waves.

The thrill of challenging the walls of churning water had lured bodysurfer Robin Mohr out of bed before sunrise. He was panting on the sand. A wave had sent him tumbling through the foamy chop. A trickle of blood was on his forehead. That's 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. He's 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. It has kept lifeguards busy. The surf has attracted daring surfers and bodysurfers. They arrive with boards, wetsuits and fins in tow. The big surf was created by a major storm thousands of miles away.

The highest California surf was expected the next day, May 4. It was being kicked up by the Southern Hemisphere storm. Six- to 8-foot waves were recorded at Santa Monica. Neighboring Venice saw slightly higher surf.

The Behr family from Colorado brought their sons, 1-year-old Cole and 3-year-old Max, to the beach. Their father, David Behr, called the huge surf 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. All the while, he snapped pictures and pointed 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. It was because of the high surf, said Newport Beach Chief Lifeguard Rob Williams.

The rough conditions extended north along the California coast. They went up 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. That's 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 105 times

  • RylandH-3
    5/08/2015 - 07:59 p.m.

    This past swell brought many spectators flocked to newport beaches "wedge". The large swell grew waves of up to 15 ft. The body boarders and body surfers were frantic at the sight of the great looking waves. about 55,000 people showed up just to watch.I think this is a really cool article because i am really into surf culture and i love the ocean.

  • MaggieM-3
    5/09/2015 - 01:57 p.m.

    Southern California is experiencing some of its largest waves on record this May. At The Wedge, in Newport Beach brave surfers and bodysurfers got out their equipment to battle the fifteen foot waves. This attracted many spectators and the beach was extra busy, leaving the lifeguards on their toes. The Wedge was not the only beach with larger than normal surf. Santa Monica got six to eight foot waves and the waves in Venice were even bigger. Robin Mohr is a fifty year old a bodysurfer drove all the way from San Diego to experience the once in a lifetime swell. This has been the busiest weekend for the lifeguards since March, because of such the large crowds flocking to the beaches. There were 55,000 people in Newport over the weekend, and the lifeguards had to pull seventeen people out of the water.

    I think it is very cool that we live in a place so close to all the excitement of the massive waves. However, I wonder why Hermosa Beach is not getting any of the swell, surly it should get some if Santa Monica and Venice are?

  • AlexisC-Kut
    5/09/2015 - 02:15 p.m.

    Wow, 55,000 people are a lot and the lifeguards had to pull 17 people out of the water when the lifeguards said not to go in the water. I have never seen a wave in real life before but, when they said that there was a 15-foot waves and I thought that was crazy! Also I thought it was sad how Robin Mohr got hit on the forehead with a surfboard I think that would really hurt! I really enjoyed reading this article.

  • AJ_Slater
    5/10/2015 - 01:05 p.m.

    As spring gives way to summer crowds of surfers are flocking to california. There are people body surfing 15 foot waves. The waves are now extraordinarily big in some places. This is causing more lifeguard rescues. I think it's cool tha the waves are getting bigger for summer.

  • BrendanB-Kut
    5/10/2015 - 03:22 p.m.

    I think that surfing seems fun but dangerous. You have to consider that there are going to be times when you are surfing and a big wave pushes you somewhere else. But lots of people have no fear and keep on surfing.

  • DominicP-Kut
    5/10/2015 - 05:42 p.m.

    CLIMATE CHANGE YOU JERK! Okay first off 15 ft waves is nuts. Secondly why would you go towards that they are like mini tsunamis! So if somebody could explain why you would do that that would be awsome thank you!

  • TannerD-Kut
    5/10/2015 - 09:12 p.m.

    I think it is pretty awesome to be learning about something that we are actually intersted in. I think it is great to be learning about what happened in other states

  • JadenW-Kut
    5/10/2015 - 10:07 p.m.

    The amount of courage it'd take me to do this is insane. Honestly, I think I would have a heart attack while surfing, open water is my biggest fear. It's surprising they only had 134 people get rescued, with how big the waves were and how many people there were there, I'd expect there to have been more.

  • paigek-Koc
    5/11/2015 - 01:07 a.m.

    I love the beach, and I've tried to learn how to surf before and it is really hard. It was a lot of fun while learning but it's a lot harder then it looks. But this would be really cool!

  • RachelL-2
    5/11/2015 - 02:15 a.m.

    This article is about the big waves that have been occupying many skilled surfers this past couple weeks. The ginormous waves caused by a far away storm challenged all lifeguards, coming up with a count of 134 people rescued from all nearby beaches, and 17 from just Newport Beach. Lifeguards suggest that un-skilled surfers stay out of the water at all times. I think this article is interesting!!

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