Ocean City’s surfing beach program could use a thorough review, and word that a committee of knowledgeable stakeholders will be involved in evaluating it in its current state is welcome news.
First and foremost, the committee needs to keep in mind with every recommendation it makes to the Mayor and Council the impact it will have on vacationers, many of whom wait year-round to spend time in Ocean City and some of whom frown when their closest access to the ocean is restricted to surfers. Fortunately, the beauty of the current system is that it rotates daily, and we believe that must continue into the future to ensure fairness up and down the island.
Thanks to the online petition launched by Mick Chester, at least one proposal is on the table, albeit informally. The petition reads, “We the surfers are asking the Mayor and City Council to expand the surfing beaches up to 2 ½ blocks per surfing beach. Also asking that Ocean City Beach Patrol modify surfing in parts of the city that have a low number of beach patrons in the off seasons (spring, fall & inclement weather).”
More than doubling the current size of the surfing beach could be problematic for many, particularly those oceanfront owners and renters who will have to walk a considerable distance to enter the water during select days. A one-block walk around the surfing beach is one thing, but anything more and the city is surely going to hear robust criticism.
Another concept pitched informally is the desire to give the Ocean City Beach Patrol more discretion on when surfing can be allowed. For instance, if it’s an overcast day with large waves on a non-surfing beach street, some have said the lifeguards should have the option to permit surfing with no restrictions. In some cases, that already happens, but a formal policy is a good idea and worthy of exploring in detail.
We think larger designated areas are a good place to start because it might address the congestion at the surfing beaches, but it should not be done in July and August, peak tourism months. We also propose eliminating the known streets where there is never a break. There are at least 10 streets in Ocean City that are notorious for producing no waves, due to sand bars most of the time, and surfers understandably do not turn out.
Whatever the final outcome, we have confidence a diverse committee comprised of local residents, Ocean City Beach Patrol members, surfers and business owners in the trade will be able to find an acceptable middle ground in short order.