OCEAN CITY – The town will soon explore the possibility of altering the way its code views the growing hobby of standup paddle boarding after a request was made this week to allow them in the ocean for surfing purposes.
Gabriel Mancini, owner of Mancini’s Italian Restaurant in Fenwick Island and an Ocean City resident, came before the Mayor and City Council on Monday evening asking for the Recreation and Parks Committee to examine Ocean City’s code to consider having a Stand Up Paddleboard (SUP) be reclassified as a surfboard. A SUP is currently classified as watercraft because it is operated with a paddle.
Mancini referenced Ocean City’s modified surfing beach schedule in allowing SUPs at surfing beaches. Last year the surfing beach schedule was changed when the Mayor and City Council approved the Surfing Beach Committee’s recommendation to expand the two rotating surfing beaches during times of good surf and poor swimming conditions as well as have the Inlet open to surfers on a conditional basis on the weekends during the summer due to the surfing beaches being overcrowded.
“I am here to ask the council to consider asking the Recreation and Parks Committee to re-classify SUPs when in the surf,” Mancini said. “The reason it is important because presently SUPs are considered watercraft because they are used with a paddle. My understanding of the ordinance is it keeps canoes and kayaks out of the surf but a canoe and a kayak are different from a SUP because of the weight and the size. The great thing about a SUP is it has a leash like a surf board and can be controlled in the surf unlike a kayak or a canoe.”
Ocean City’s code currently defines a surfboard “as an object of rigid or semirigid construction, constructed or partially constructed of wood, plastic, fiberglass, epoxy, styrofoam or similar foam substances, or any other similar substances, or combination thereof, with rigid or semi-rigid attachments or protrusions for aid in steering or movements which serve as a rudder and commonly referred to as ‘skegs’ and used for riding waves and no less than 60 inches in length, but not including inflatable flotation devices and soft top body boards.”
A watercraft is defined “as any water vessel, whether powered or propelled by human power, sail power or motorized engine power, including but not limited to boats, kayaks, canoes, surf skis, stand up paddleboards, and personal water craft, excepting inflatable flotation devices, soft top body boards, surfboards, devices or Ocean City Beach Patrol (OCBP) surf rescue units.”
The code continues, “it is prohibited for any person to ride a wind surfboard or operate any watercraft from adjoining land upon any beach in the corporate limits of Ocean City, from Friday of Memorial Day weekend to September 30 between the hours of 10 a.m. and 5:30 p.m., except for emergency beaching of distressed watercraft, OCBP members operating surf rescue units, and participation in an organized tournament or event either sanctioned by or upon receipt of a ‘special events permit’ from the Mayor and City Council.”
Recreation and Parks Chair and Councilman Joe Mitrecic agreed to have the committee review the classification of a SUP to be used in the surf on Ocean City’s beaches. On Tuesday, he said the item has been scheduled to be discussed at the commission’s meeting next Tuesday, Jan. 14.
“It is a valid request,” Mitrecic said. “SUPs are not like kayaks. They do have a leash system attached to them, so if the board does get away it wouldn’t get that far. The rules of the water are continually changing as new equipment comes out, and it is one of those things we are going to have to look at and evolve for.”
Mitrecic added there is always a chance of receiving backlash from the surfing community in allowing SUPs on surfing beaches.
“I would imagine SUPs would be out past the breakers. I don’t believe they would be trying to catch waves, but maybe I’m wrong,” he said.
According to the Outdoor Foundation’s 2013 Outdoor Participation Report, stand up paddling is one of the most popular outdoor activities among first-time participants with 56 percent of all the first-time participants of outdoor activities in 2013, beating windsurfing, which had 43 percent of first-time participants in 2013.
The report also cited the median age for stand up paddling in 2013 as 28, accounting for 63 percent of all the men and 56 percent of all the women who participated in outdoor activities during 2013.
Most SUPs are made of glass-reinforced plastic using epoxy resin that is compatible with the polyurethane or expanded polystyrene foam used in the core. Some SUPs are made of hollow wood instead of foam with epoxy resin.
SUPs are generally longer than nine feet with some extending longer than 12 feet with one to three surfboard style fins in the stern for tracking. The person stands on the board and uses a long single-bladed paddle to navigate the water.