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Dirty Old Wedge

2016
Distributed by Passion River Films, 154 Mt. Bethel Rd., Warren, NJ 07059; 732-321-0711
Produced by Tim Burnham, Edwin Toby Eversole and Jack Murgatroyd
Directed by Tim Burnham
DVD, color, I hr., 2 min.
General Adult
Surfing, California


Reviewed by Linda Kelly Alkana, Department of History, California State University Long Beach

Recommended with reservations   
 
Date Entered: 7/12/2018

In 1936 the United States Army Corps of Engineers completed a jetty in Newport Beach, California to protect and shelter the harbor entrance. A consequence of this interference with Mother Nature was the creation of “the most famous body surfing wave in the world,” where one wave backed up against the jetty and another crashed into it, creating what began to be called the “Dirty Old Wedge.”

The film traces a sub-culture of body-surfers, the “wedge crew,” who claimed the waves as their own. This documentary contains generous amounts of footage of these young body surfers challenging these incredible waves with a mixture of exuberance, foolishness, bravado and bravery. The action scenes are interspersed with interviews of the original wedge crew members and the next generation of body surfers who needed to prove their worth to the older cohort. The interviews capture a moment in time where the crew—all young men—ruled the beach with their body surfing skills, their parties, their antics and finally their political battle to protect their time on the waves, as technological changes such as boogie boards and shorter surf boards brought in another generation who also wanted to surf the wedge. The film acknowledges the many injuries and at least one death the sport claimed.

Although made recently, Dirty Old Wedge is reminiscent of early surfing movies, where the music is loud, the boys have their fun and the girls wear bikinis. It does not mention, for example, that there are now crews at the wedge today, including body boarders and photographers. It is not sufficiently analytic (nor is its intent) to be useful for educators such as sociologists and historians. Rather, it works as a fun film for some young male aficionados of body surfing.