City investigates surfing beach changes, citing popular demand

ZACK HOOPES ¦ Staff Writer

(Nov. 30, 2012) For the third time this year, surfing enthusiasts are expected to receive more wiggle room in what, when, and where they ride.

The City Council has tabled the proposed 2013 surf beach schedule in anticipation of further discussion about re-vamping the city’s system for determining when and where surfers may ride during the busy summer months.

“One of the things I heard over the last few months was regarding the surfing,” said Councilman Denis Dare. “We’ve done the rotating beaches for a long time.”

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., from Memorial Day through Labor Day, and specifically along Boardwalk-adjacent beaches from May 1 to Sept. 30.

During those times, the city has a rotating surfing beach schedule that limits daytime surfboard use to two select blocks of beach, which change daily, as well as a section of the inlet on weekdays only.

But Dare said he had been hearing that the system was inconvenient for both surfers and other beachgoers.

“It’s not very often that there’s a good break north of about 80th Street,” he said.

Furthermore, Dare said, the system is counterproductive “knowing families have to walk a half-block this way or that way when there’s very little surfers using the beach.”

He moved that council table delay approving the 2013 schedule and instead ask the mayor to assemble a committee to recommend a more extensive change to the system.

“Let them [the surfing community] get together with the Beach Patrol, the city manager, Tom [Shuster, Parks and Recreation Director] and talk about things we might be able to do,” Dare said.

Council Secretary Mary Knight agreed with Dare’s assessment.

“During my last month of campaigning [for the 2012 council elections], it was a big point of discussion with a lot of folks,” Knight said.

She also pointed out that an online petition is being circulated by Ocean City firefighter and surf and skateboard enthusiast

Mick Chester, “Expand the Surfing Beaches in Ocean City, Maryland: Give surfers more freedom to surf our beaches.”

Online at www.change.org, Chester’s petition requests that the city expand surf beaches up to 2.5 blocks, instead of a single block, to reduce dangerous summer crowding.

This will not be the first time popular demand from the surfing and skateboarding community has spurred revisions.

In June, the city changed its definition of “boogie boards” to a more expansive definition of “soft-top bodyboards.” Such boards are allowed to be used at all beaches during peak summer hours, but in an attempt to reduce water crowding, the beach patrol had begun enforcing the original 1972 ordinance that restricted boogie boards to those boards under 42 inches.

The subsequent outcry from boarders, many of whom use the larger, differently shaped bodyboards that have become popular in recent years, resulted in the repeal of the old definition. The new one allows any finless or rudderless board up to 54 inches.

Further, in response to a public demand from skateboarders for more freedom in the resort, Councilman Doug Cymek suggested a similar move in September that resulted in skateboards being allowed on the Boardwalk during the same hours that bicycles are normally allowed.

The council voted unanimously in favor of Dare’s motion and Meehan said he would report shortly with information on the committee and its opinion.

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