OCEAN CITY – Following in the footsteps of Ocean City’s body boarding and skateboarding laws being changed to keep up with the times, a Surfing Beach Committee will be formed to take a look at how the resort handles its designated surfing beaches.
During a department update this week, Recreation and Parks Director Tom Shuster presented the Mayor and City Council with the proposed 2013 Surfing Beach Schedule for approval.
The schedule establishes two rotating surfing beaches, a street in the north and south end of town, plus the Inlet being open Monday through Friday to surfers. The two rotating surfing beaches move two blocks every week.
Before a vote was taken, Councilman Dennis Dare asked the council’s consideration to table the surfing beach schedule.
“One of the concerns I have heard over the last couple of months regards the surfing in Ocean City,” he said.
Dare said one of the complaints have been that there is not a good surf break in north Ocean City around 80th Street but yet those streets will be closed to visitors despite having no surfers on the scene.
“I think there can be some small tweaks to this and perhaps the mayor would consider appointing a committee to study this,” Dare said. “We have a lot of surf shop operators, one world champion boogie boarder [Brian Stoehr], and the Surfriders [Foundation]. Let them get together … and talk about some things.”
Council Secretary Mary Knight agreed with Dare and pointed out Mick Chester’s petition drive online to change the surfing beaches in Ocean City.
“I think it would be negligent of us to disregard that plea or have discussion,” Knight said.
Chester’s petition, titled “Expand the Surfing Beaches in Ocean City, Maryland: Give Surfers More Freedom to Surf Our Beaches”, is posted on the website, change.org. As of Wednesday morning, it had received 24 signatures.
The petition states, “Welcome to Ocean City, Maryland where we take pride in our town being a surf community yet during the summer months we are heavily restricted from surfing some of the best waves around.”
The petition explains that Ocean City adopted its surfing beach law in the 1970’s, making it unlawful to surf outside of designated areas during the summer months, and today it remains the same, never being modernized, with the exception of the second beach being added and the weekday Inlet offering.
According to the petition, Ocean City’s designated surfing beaches are about 350 feet wide, and between the two rotating streets and the space at the Inlet, all together surfing beaches add up to a little over 1,000 feet out of over nine miles of beach area in Ocean City.
“On a general day, the surfing beaches are overcrowded with all types of surfers — experienced, inexperienced, locals and visitors alike,” Chester states in the petition. “This is a dangerous combo to have in such a small area especially when the surf is big and even more people are in the lineup. Imagine having to fight for a wave against 50 to 60 other people in a small city block of ocean.”
The petition asks for the Mayor and City Council to consider expanding the surfing beaches up to 2.5 blocks per surfing beach as well as the Ocean City Beach Patrol modifying surfing in parts of the city that have a low number of beach patrons in the off seasons.
“This is certainly something that has been brought to our attention since 2006 and I am glad to see that we are going to move this to discussion because this is something that even the tourists don’t like because nobody is surfing at their beach and they can’t even be there … so if we can come up with a better solution it would be great,” Councilwoman Margaret Pillas said.
Dare transformed his suggestion into a motion. Councilman Doug Cymek followed it with a second and the council voted unanimously to approve the appointment of a Surfing Beach Committee.
Mayor Rick Meehan agreed to come forward with a list of committee members who will work on studying surfing beach locations and return with recommendations as soon as possible.
Talk of changes to Ocean City’s rules regarding surfing beaches began last July when a brief ban took place on the use of certain body boards on the town’s beaches but was quickly lifted when city officials realized the town code was formed in 1972 and a simple fix would be to modernize the language within the law.
Following the vote to change the body board law to alter the allowable dimensions, Jenny Carven, co-owner of Ish Boutique, pointed out to the council the town has other regulations related to extracurricular activities that also need to be changed to keep up with modern day society, in particular the limitations in surfing locations and strict skateboarding rules.
In September, Chester began a separate petition titled, “Mayor and City Council: Legalize Skateboarding in Ocean City, Maryland”, and can also be found on change.org. The petition received 284 signatures.
By October, Cymek and Knight advanced the suggestion to allow skateboards on the Boardwalk for transportation purposes during the same time as bicycle hours.
A couple weeks later, the council voted to amend the skateboarding law to go from being unlawful for any person to operate a skateboard on the Boardwalk at any time to being allowed during certain times.