Lifeguards rescued two people from the water over the weekend after a large wave tossed them from their personal watercraft near the Wedge.
They were riding a PWC jet ski near the famous surf spot around 4 p.m. Saturday when a nearly 20-foot wave overtook them.
The couple had rented the jet ski from a vendor in Newport Beach and were riding along the Balboa Peninsula shore when they decided to return to the harbor, explained Lifeguard Battalion Chief Brent Jacobsen.
“Not being from the area, they became disoriented,” he said.
They headed in the right direction to harbor entrance, but cut in too much toward the beach and ended up inside the “impact zone,” Jacobsen noted.
Video of the incident, from SoCalVideos, shows the driver notice the wave and speed up, apparently trying to outrun it. As they head closer to the rock jetty the wave breaks and crashes down on them, sweeping them off the jet ski. As the water goes down the jet ski is seen sitting empty on the rocks.
The video shows their heads bobbing just above the water just as whitewash from another wave spills over them.
Less than one minute after they were swept off the jet ski lifeguards are seen in the water and swimming toward them.
Another video, by Rob Marienthal, shows lifeguards and others pulling them out of the water and onto the beach.
Luckily, both were wearing their personal flotation devices (life vests), Jacobsen pointed out. Without the vests, they could have gotten trapped underwater by the rocks and the outcome could have been very different, he added.
“The PFDs probably saved their lives,” he said. “They were key in the success of the rescue.”
About half a dozen lifeguards were involved in the rescue, with the help of some bystanders and off duty lifeguards who were there body surfing, Jacobsen said. A lifeguard rescue boat also assisted.
Both victims were treated on the scene and transported to Hoag Hospital with non-life threatening injuries.
The jet ski was thrown around and damaged by the waves, but lifeguards were able to pull it out of the water with a truck, Jacobsen reported.
Waves at the Wedge over the weekend were consistently 8 to 10 feet, Jacobsen said, often up to about 15 feet and bigger.
There were a couple thousand visitors in that general area of the beach at the time, Jacobsen estimated. Approximately 300,000 people headed for Newport’s sand over the weekend. During that time lifeguards performed nearly 300 rescues, several thousand preventative actions, and rendered medical aid to about half a dozen people.
Jacobsen had three key tips for PWC riders and boaters : Get familiar with the area, avoid getting too close to the shoreline (or the rock jetty), and always wear a personal flotation device.
If caught in a rip current, don’t panic, swim to the side/parallel to the shore and lifeguards will quickly be there to help, Jacobsen advised.
He also suggested checking in with lifeguards about the ocean conditions and potential hazards before heading into the water.
“The beach and the ocean are a fun place to visit, but they need to be treated with respect,” Jacobsen noted.
To view the SoCalVideos video of the incident, visit youtu.be/s5L6xzIsESw.
To view Rob Marienthal’s video of the rescue, visit youtu.be/odohNoEgmxE.