Jetty Surfing for Dummies

by Scott Cornell
Jetties help produce larger, more powerful waves.

Jetties help produce larger, more powerful waves.

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One of the most popular coastal activities is surfing. And one of the most popular misconceptions is that "jetty" is a style of surfing; in fact, it's more of a surfing condition. A jetty is a type of structure used in maritime projects to influence such things as a current or tide. Most times, these structures are constructed to protect an area. However, surfers take advantage of jetties on various coastlines for the massive waves they can help generate.

The Wedge

One of the world's most notable places where a jetty helps form massive waves is a surf spot known as the Wedge. It's on the Balboa Peninsula in Balboa, California, along Newport Beach. Waves that hit the Wedge begin as swells in New Zealand. As they come into shore along the California coastline, they bounce off a jetty and form into large waves. At times, the waves can reach 30 feet high.

Surfing Jetties

Surfing isn't safe when waves reach 30 feet, as they occasionally do at the Wedge. Those waves are best for bodysurfers. However, smaller waves formed by the jetty can be surfed. When these waves aren't at their peak, they're still several feet higher than other surf waves on the California coast. They're surfed the same way as any other wave.

Danger

Surfers should take care surfing the large waves that jetties produce. Because of the conditions, waves can form in only a few feet of water. If a surfer falls in such a situation, he could be injured. According to the "Los Angeles Times," the Newport Beach Wedge is responsible for many broken bones and concussions. In rare cases, it can be fatal. In 2009, the newspaper said, a 50-year-old man was slammed into the rock jetty by 20-foot waves.

Other Jetties

A jetty isn't just a maritime structure. It's also the name of a brand of clothing. For example, Jetty (jettylife.com) is a New Jersey clothing company specializing in men's and women's athletic apparel. It's also the company sponsor of a Jetty Surf team. Jetty is also the name of a commercial surfboard from Soulcraft. It's 100 percent hand made of epoxy construction, designed to be lighter so that surfers can get better air.

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