The jetty at 56th street is the most popular and famous surf spots in the Newport Jetties area. It is sometimes called the “100-hottest yards” (and other similar sorts of nonsense by the marketers in the surf industry)…and the name stems more from the type of surf talent that surfs there than the actual surf itself, which is probably a bad indicator as to the perceived mental health of our sport. In general the wave is basically on par with what you find at the Rivermouth but, due to the presence of the jetty, the line-up and the wave’s sections are a lot more stable.
That being said it is still a great magnet for surfing ability for both pros and amateurs. It has a lot of things going for it…it is a good wave, it is close to shore, easy to photograph, and when you get the right swell mix it gets really hollow.
The jetty does most of the work setting up the surf at 56th. It stops and shapes the sand on both the north and south side and can even form small paddle channels as the swell gets bigger. The semi-permanent sandbar around the jetty actually shifts from season to season…setting up a better left in the summer and a better right-hander on the south side in the winter.
It breaks year round and can actually stay a little more surfable than the more open beaches to the north when adverse winds and conditions move through the area. It breaks best on longer-period S-SW swells, short-period S swells (like the ones from Hurricanes or tropical storms), medium/short period W swells, and it can get really good on combo swells that have both W and S in the mix
56th sees some influence from the Newport Submarine Canyon…in particular it sees a cool boost in wave size when we start getting a shorter-period S swell. What is funny is that most Newport surfers automatically think “THE POINT” when a hurricane starts moving through when 56th can get just as good with a fraction of the crowd. What happens is that while some of the energy that is refracted by the canyon heads back towards Newport Point the other portion of that energy is bent towards 56th and will help to shape that wedge of a left that starts to break north of the jetty. It also helps that the sand is usually shaped pretty good by hurricane season and that the shorter period swell is a bit more makeable due to its speed…add those things together and you can pick off a few silly barrels.
Best swell direction: SE-SW (160-210+) and W-NW (260-290)
Best Wind: N-NE-E, light-moderate Santa Ana winds are the best.
Sea Floor: Sand…really shallow sand, and few rocks near the jetties
Best Season: Summer, Fall, and Winter can all be equally great. Fall is the most consistent.
Crowds: Yes it gets crowded…and the crowd can get ugly sometimes. There are a lot of guys that rip in the line-up and plenty of people shooting photos/video from the beach when there is a good swell.