NEW FOR THURSDAY: Outcry Leads To Ocean City Lifting Specific Body Board Ban

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OCEAN CITY — A major flap over the proliferation of an increasingly popular, larger version of the traditional boogie board was at least temporarily resolved today when Ocean City officials lifted the ban on the “beaters” until the issue could be discussed next week.

After receiving numerous complaints about the increased use of the larger body boards, those 42 inches or longer, and their perceived threat on the safety of the general public in the ocean, the Ocean City Beach Patrol recently began enforcing a ban on the “beaters,” a particular trade name for one brand of larger boards.

The ban touched off a widespread controversy Wednesday over the use of the larger body boards, prompting city officials late yesterday to lift the ban and stop the enforcement of the section of the town code written in 1972 governing body boards until a rational, logical discussion on the issue could be held.

The Ocean City Beach Patrol just recently began enforcing the arcane section of the code after receiving several complaints about not just the proliferation of the larger body boards, but also the aggressive habits by a handful of their users.

K-Coast Surf Shop co-owner Mark Pugh said today a handful of kids are utilizing the larger body boards in an aggressive manner in the crowded ocean and some are actually making a game of running over tourists.

“The problem isn’t the boards themselves, the problem is a handful of kids are causing complaints because of how they are using them,” he said. “Unfortunately, tons of people are using the boards in a safe manner and they are being penalized by the actions of a handful of kids that aren’t. This isn’t a board issue, it’s a personal responsibility issue.”

The patrol, faced with increasing complaints, had little recourse but to start enforcing the rules and regulations governing body boards in the town code, much the chagrin of the “beater” loving public. The town code defines a body board, or boogie board as a semi-soft, buoyant, semi-curved object of no more than 42 inches long, 24 inches wide and four inches thick that can be used on Ocean City beaches in non-designated surfing areas. The code also includes language that provides the Beach Patrol some discretion in enforcement regardless of the length of the board.

City Manager David Recor said today the town officially lifted the ban on the larger boards until a discussion is held on Monday to better define the accepted lengths, and perhaps more importantly, the use of the larger boards.

“We’ve tasked [OCBP Captain] Butch [Arbin] with talking to the shop owners and business leaders to come up with a logical solution,” he said. “We’ve seen an evolution of the product since the code was written in 1972 and this needs revisiting. The question is, when does a body board become a surfboard? The primary mission of the Beach Patrol is to protect the safety and well-being of both residents and visitors alike.”

According to Pugh, Arbin will likely ask for a change in the code to allow a body board of up to 58 inches and will ask the Council for the continued discretion to enforce the code.

Professional body boarder Brian Stoehr offered his perspective on the matter today.

“The current ordinance was written before body boards came in different sizes and in more recent years body boards are being made in a variety of sizes to accommodate different rider sizes and types of riding,” Stoehr said. “More so than the size of the board, I think the issue would be is the behavior on the person. If a person is deliberately running over another body boarder or swimmer, that isn’t acceptable behavior regardless of the size of the board. … a simple solution is probably updating that code to give the beach patrol some type of ability to use their discretion based on a given situation.”

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