Surfing Beach Policy Tweaked For Stand Operators

OCEAN CITY – Beach stand operators were taken into consideration with the new surfing beach conditions this week as the Surfing Committee sets standards aimed at not affecting their sales.

Last month, the Surfing Committee sent a favorable recommendation to the Mayor and Council to approve a modified version of the 2013 Surfing Beach Schedule that would call for the Inlet beach to be open during the weeks, and its opening conditional on the weekends in late May, June and September and closed on the weekends in July and August. The standard rotating schedule would stay in play and at times of good surf will be expanded to provide surfers with more space. The Mayor and City Council voted to approve the recommendation.

Following the surfing beach schedule’s approval, it was brought to the Surf Committee’s attention the new regulation has the potential to impact beach stand franchise owners, who have stands set up on beach parcels to rent out equipment, such as umbrellas and beach chairs.

Will Edmunds, an Inlet beach stand operator, pointed out he is not the only franchise holder in the Inlet, in fact there are three separate parcels and therefore three franchise holders. Edmunds is the beach stand operator in the south parcel, which is where the surfing beach is located during the week.

“Basically, we have 15 weekends between Memorial Day and Labor Day, and of course the proposal from the Surfing Committee allows for seven out of those 15 weekends to possibly allow for it to be a surfing beach, which accounts for 30 percent of my revenue … and I can tell you six out of those seven weekends were my busiest weekends … so it’s not quiet even in June,” Edmunds said.

In discussions with Edmunds, Ocean City Beach Patrol (OCBP) Lt. Ward Kovacs began drafting an updated training manual for surfing beach facilitators regarding the Inlet and rotating surfing beaches in relation to the beach stand operators.

“When weather effects the beach population and there are no swimmers in the Inlet surf beach area, the Inlet surf beach will be open to surfers if any arrive,” Kovacs said. “The Inlet surf beach will only be open for surfing in this way on days scheduled as conditionally open on the surf beach schedule. The Inlet surf beach will not be open for surfing on the weekend days when the southernmost beach stand parcel remains open and renting equipment. This is to avoid having a detrimental economical effect on the operator of the beach stand.”

The committee concurred with Kovacs’ language within the manual as it defined the term “conditional” and eliminated any grey area.

“I’m sure Will isn’t the only one this affects,” Councilman Joe Mitrecic said.

Kovacs furthered it had also been brought to his attention the expansion of the rotating surf beach when located south of 27th Street would also affect beach stand operators. He explained beach stand franchises north of 27th Street include three blocks versus the franchises south of 27th Street only include one block. Therefore, if the surfing beach were to be expanded on days with good surf when located north of 27th Street, beach stand operators would still have half a block left to the north and south to work with. However, beach stand operators to the south of 27th Street would not be as lucky and business would be knocked out for them that day.

“If the beach stand is closed and we are not cutting into their business, then we will open up that area for surfing or we will expand the surfing beach,” Kovacs recommended for surfing beaches south of 27th Street.

The committee voted to accept Kovacs’ conditions regarding the Inlet and rotating surfing beaches from 27th Street south to operate without affecting the business of the beach stand operators.