(Aug. 2, 2013) Although a thus-far flat surf season has not put it into action very often, the new compromise system for surf beach modification brokered earlier this year has been used without any major problems, according to local surfers and the Ocean City Beach Patrol.
“It’s only been three or four days that we’ve done it so far,” said Beach Patrol Lt. Ward Kovacs. “From my perspective, it’s really been the same.”
“It’s been pretty much status quo so far,” agreed Sgt. Tim Uebel. “We really haven’t had to adjust them.”
Proper surfboards – those with fins or those more than 54 inches long – are prohibited on city beaches from the hours of 10 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. between Memorial Day and Labor Day, and along Boardwalk-adjacent beaches from May 1 to Sept. 30.
During those times, the city currently has a rotating surfing beach schedule that limits summer daytime surfboard use to two select blocks of beach, which change daily, as well as the southern half of the inlet beach on weekdays only.
The Beach Patrol also has the ability to declare a “modified” surf schedule if it sees that surfing outside the two designated blocks would not present a problem due to a low concentration of bathers on the beach.
“We modified it a lot this season, just due to the cold weather and rain,” Kovacs said.
Last year, however, local surfers asked the city to come up with a system that would give them more room on days when the weather is at its peak for both surfing and swimming, citing the space crunch created by the sport’s resurgence in popularity and the inconsistency of the surfing conditions in the area.
After a lengthy series of meetings by a committee made up of city officials and local surfers, a new clause of the city code was developed, giving the OCBP the ability to double the size – from one block to two – of both rotating surf beaches, depending on how much demand it anticipates given the quality of the surfing conditions.
The beach patrol will also have discretion to keep the designated surf beach at the inlet, normally closed on summer weekends, open through the next-to-last weekend in June and again beginning the next-to-last weekend in August, conditional on the density of swimmers. This also depends, however, on the agreement of the inlet beach stand franchise owners, who pay the city for the rights to rent beach equipment and would suffer financially if the beach were closed to swimmers without notice.
The expansion of the surf beaches, however, has been rarely used given that surfers’ demand is low. The water has been cold, and the swells not so great.
“It’s been a weird season so far,” said Lee Gerachis, owner of Malibu’s Surf Shop. “We haven’t had a ton of surf this summer…but I think it was a great gesture on the part of the city. They’ve made an effort to extend the beach when the waves are of any consequence.”