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Body surfer dies after rescue from high surf at the Wedge [Updated]

July 24, 2009 |  2:37 pm

[Updated 8:14 p.m.: The Orange County coroner’s office has identified the man as 50-year-old Monte Kevin Valantin of Lawndale.]

A body surfer has died after being thrown against the rocks at the Wedge in Newport Beach in 20-foot waves.

The body surfer, whose name was not released, was taken to Hoag Memorial Hospital about noon in grave condition, said Jennifer Schulz, a spokeswoman for the Newport Beach Fire Department.

The Wedge is a popular body boarding, surfing and body surfing beach at the south end of the Balboa Peninsula.

A high-surf warning has been in effect for Southern California with waves possibly reaching as high as 8 feet in south-facing beaches. Area lifeguards are warning beachgoers to exercise caution this weekend.

"The high surf is our No. 1 concern," said county lifeguard Capt. Terry Harvey. "We're advising all beachgoers to talk to lifeguards to find out where that safe place is to swim."

Harvey said the result of large surf and an uneven bottom in the water will lead to dangerous rip currents, and conditions are expected to run through the weekend and into next week.

Rescuers have already dealt with a magnitude of distressed swimmers and surfers in the water today, Harvey said.

He said there would be additional Baywatch patrol on beaches to ensure safety.

"We do everything we can," Harvey said. "We are prepared for a busy weekend."

The Wedge is considered a mecca for body surfing, but is also known for its potential dangers.

Wedge veterans have left the beach with concussions, fractured vertebrae and broken bones. The waves ricochet off the rocky jetty at the tip of Balboa Peninsula, smashing together in white-frosted peaks that can tower 20 feet.

The Wedge can chew up novices, flinging them onto the hard berm of sand or sucking them back into the churning surf.

-- Gerrick D. Kennedy

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Photos: Large waves pound south-facing beaches

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From the archives

Newport's Wedge is still a sandy hook
(Nov. 3, 2008)

Time Is Wiping Out Wedge Surf Purists
(Sept. 30, 2002)

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