by Michelle Michalak May 09, 2017

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 CaliforniaImage 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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