The lower Newport Jetties are sort of like 56th street but without all of the bells and whistles. The jetties are a little shorter, the sand doesn’t groom out quite as well, and it doesn’t really get that great until you get a good combo swell.
In fact the lower jetties are actually notoriously known for being the place to avoid a large swell…it acts as a good training area for beginners, a few mellower waves for longboarders who don’t want to battle the scene at Blackies, and it even has a bodyboard-only area around 40th street, (which is actually just a fulltime blackball area but it is always filled with bodyboarders).
The lower jetties is made up from a series of jetties (I know that I am a dumbass) that help to brace the area from 56th street down through Blackies. Each of these jetties is affectionately known by its corresponding street. There are jetties at 52nd, 48th, 44th, 40th, 36th, 32nd, and 28th streets…(sensing a pattern yet?). The combo of jetties and number street names make it very easy to tell your friends where you are surfing, or to direct hordes of mindless surf monsters to your semi-secret sandbar by cell phone.
The jetties were actually put in place to help stop the erosion of the beach by the consistent, longshore bar current, which is the north-to-south sand transport current that runs along the California coast. (There will be a test on that later). The jetties are mostly successful but the City of Newport Beach does have to replenish the beach with new sand from time to time…this is sometimes accomplished by dredging sand out of the Santa Ana river…or parts of Newport Harbor, both of which I am sure are very clean and sanitary (hmmm bird flu anyone?).
Anyway…the best swell for the area is actually a short-period W swell…or a good short-period W with some S swell to break it up. The W swells actually get broken up and refracted out by the Newport Submarine Canyon so you can get some semi-peaky shape without a cross-up swell…but the extra energy definitely helps to groom the corners.
When a short-period W swell, (really you want almost a windswell but with just slightly longer periods…basically what I would usually associate with a storm swell), hits you will see the biggest surf around the Blackies area but the jetties just to the north will be almost the same size…you actually see the size drop off as you head further north until you move out of the 40-48th street deadzone…and then size starts to pick up again as get closer to 56th. When you add in the S swell it can actually help to shape up the middle area a little better…expanding the surf zone.
Best swell direction: Short-medium period W swell (260-280) and a touch of S swell.
Best Wind: N-NE-E, light-moderate Santa Ana winds are the best.
Sea Floor: Sand and few rocks near the jetties
Best Season: Fall and Winter. It is usually more consistent in the winter but cleaner in the fall.
Crowds: The crowds are not too bad…but the surf areas can get a little claustrophobic near the jetties. Weekends, large swells, and good surf in the jetties will help to pack ‘em in at times.