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May 09, 2017 3 min read

Since 1993 Bodysurfers have eagerly anticipated May 1st, celebrating "opening day" at The Wedge Newport Beach, California.

When you see the yellow flag with the black ball in the center, it means 1 thing, Black Ball season.

Each year from May 1st to October 31st between 10:00am- 5 p.m. the Black Ball flag waves, shutting down access to board riders (surf boards, skim boards, surf mats, bodyboards) and unlocking the thrill world famous wave exclusively to bodysurfers.

The same goes for the rest of Newport’s beaches from 12:00pm to 4:00pm, no hard flotation devices are allowed out in the waves. 

Max Ellertson a Slyde Handboards Team Rider, who resides in Newport Beach and is an avid Wedge Rider, shares his insights on Black Ball.

Slyde Handboards The Wedge Newport California

                                    Image thanks to @West_Playas_photo

The Wedge On a Typical Day

"Newport Wedge is one of the most infamous novelty waves, that draws attention from all over the world. It is likely that if you were to watch just one set roll through on a summer night here that you would be able to see a skim boarder hug the jetty and pump down the sider to get shacked, followed by a body boarder dropping in on the peak narrowly dodging, followed by a body surfer, followed by a party wave with two surfers, a knee boarder, and a mat surfer, and someone kookin it up on an inflatable flamingo, all trying to dodge 5-10 photographers sitting on the inside.

It is safe to say that Wedge can be somewhat of a war zone at times, which is in fact the reasoning behind the blackball ruling that was revised in 1978 by Newport Beach to include the Wedge and limited the daytime hours to body surfing only during summer months. Although this ruling seems unfair to many, we need to remember that the Wedge was originally a body surfing wave, dating back to the early 1900’s.

Protecting the Tradition of The Wave

That is not to say that Wedge should only be for body surfers, but in order to protect the tradition of this wave, I think the blackball laws are appropriate and also necessary for safety reasons (body surfers and boards with fins don’t mix well). Now when it comes to handplanes, one might think that since this is a form of body surfing that they might be allowed during blackball, and technically speaking if you read city ordinance 93-33 from 1993, the updated resolution that we still follow today, there is no mention what so ever of handplanes, as they were not popular in the 90’s. In my experience however, it ultimately comes down to the lifeguard on duty, that may or may not see your handboard as an advantage over other bodysurfers and they will in fact be the final word.

Having fun during the Wedge Blackball Season

The ONLY issue I have with the blackball flag is the dissension and animosity it creates
between the groups. I don’t see myself as a surfer, whomper, or booger, but rather
someone who simply loves riding waves and connecting with other rad humans who have the same passion.

After all, the flag is not meant to exclude anyone personally, it is just meant to honor tradition and keep everyone safe. Best solution I have found is bring your whole quiver to the beach and ride everything, or nothing during blackball, as long as you are having fun you are doing it right!"

May Day! The Wedge Black Ball Flags Are Flying Bodysurfers Take Priority

Michelle Michalak
Michelle Michalak

Michelle's diploma reads BA Psychology with a minor in English, and her license plate reads #CaliforniaDreaming4Life. She begin her career in the NYC fashion industry working with fashion and internet pioneer, Bluefly.com However, due the constant "nagging" of her entrepreneurial spirit, her crush on surfing, and hardcore love for the ocean, she chosen to call San Diego home for the past 10 years. On the west coast she 's chased waves & enlightenment working alongside "Gurus" in the online marketing & personal development industries. It in May 2012 she found her true Zen & Stoke, and joined the Slyde Handboards Team.



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See the Stoke

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Not sold on it

I had really high hopes. I have been able to use the Bula on a couple good days. I'm liking my old board better so far. But will try it a couple more times before I return it just to be sure. I have none of the below issues with my Enjoy planer, and thinking of going back.
1. The dam thing is not secure on my hand. No mater how tight I make it. It litterally pops off my hand while on a wave. Its getting really anoying having to constantly pay attention to it.
2. I switch my hand depending on the wave direction. It's tough for me to get a grip on the nose, pull it off then pull tightly on other hand in time. I've missed a couple good ones because of this.
3. The pad that goes accross the top of my hand doesnt cover my whole hand and the seam starts to rub on my hand and is uncomfortable.
4. Not a huge deal but wasnt happy that there were some small cosmetc defects on the board. Eslescially for the price
5. The board bag is kind of ridiculous. Its huge and picture on website isnt to scale, but I probably just wont use it. It was basically free.

I think the only thing I can say positive is I think it has good control... after getting used to the angle I need, and may be a bit more bouyant to pull me out of water for speed. But i need to try it a few times more and figure out how to keep the dam thing on!

I am giving these to my grandsons at the end of the month. I am sure they will love them.

Hand slyde

The leash works amazing i won't go out without my leash on....

Bula hand board

This handboard is exactly what I was looking for. The size and craftsmanship is fantastic! I have gotten some great rides with this board. Super fun.

Ready for the Senior Tour

I received my Slyde Phish just before 2 weeks of gloomy weather. Now that I’ve had a chance to road test it, I can’t wait to get back in the water.

Growing up in Long Island NY, body surfing was my first wave gliding experience. Typically we would drive straight to shore so surfing the diagonal has been a learning curve.

I look forward to many great sets this summer.

Matthew Papish (59)
Laguna Beach