OC Council Approves Surfing Beach Changes

OC Council Approves Surfing Beach Changes
File Photo

OCEAN CITY – A recommendation to expand some surfing beaches to the full allowable width received the support of the Ocean City council this week.

On Tuesday, the Mayor and Council had before them a request to expand surfing beaches south of 94th Street to their full allowable width. City Manager Terry McGean said the recommendation was one of five requests from the Eastern Surfing Association (ESA) forwarded to the council for approval.

“The requested change is that the beach would initially be set up to its full width – in other words, the 50 yards to either end of the block,” he said. “Then if it is not a good surfing day, then that beach would be narrowed. It’s much easier to give the beach back to the general public then it is to take it away.”

Currently, beach surfing regulations are in effect from Memorial Day weekend through the end of September. During that time, surfing is prohibited while lifeguards are on duty except for at designated surfing beaches.

In addition to a permanent surfing beach at the Inlet, two surfing beaches are established each day, one south of 62nd Street and one north of 62nd Street.

The surfing beach then moves two blocks each day so that any single location is only impacted by a surfing beach for a single day.

“The two locations rotate each day, they move two blocks,” McGean explained.

The town’s policy also establishes the widths of surfing beaches. For example, the surfing beach typical encompasses one block. But on good surfing days, it can be extended 50 yards north of the designated surfing beach street to 50 yards south of the designated surfing beach street.

“So if you consider the surfing beach from one street to another street, the size of the beach can increase an additional 50 yards either side beyond that, so it would go from mid-block to mid-block,” McGean told the council. “What typically happens is the surfing beach is just set up at that one-block width, and then if it appears there’s a great demand, it’s a very good surf day, then that beach is expanded.”

McGean said ESA representatives had approached him in recent months with five recommendations involving current surfing beach regulations.

In addition to expanding the width of the surf beach, they requested the town establish additional surfing beaches, extend the surfing hours from 10 a.m. – when lifeguards go on duty – to 11 a.m., allow surfing when beaches are otherwise closed to swimmers, and reduce the season during which surfing beach requirements are in effect.

“The last time this occurred, what was done was there was a group of all stakeholders put together,” McGean said. “So I encouraged ESA to do that.”

McGean said two meetings were held in recent weeks and included a beach patrol representative, beach stand operators, condominium managers, hotel owners, the mayor and two councilmen.

As a result of those discussions, a single recommendation was made to modify the procedure for establishing surfing beach widths. McGean said surfing beaches would be marked each morning at the full allowable width and narrowed to a street-to-street width if surfing demand is low.

“This would only be put into place on the south-end beaches,” he said. “The beaches, once you get past 94th Street, are typically bad surfing beaches to begin with.”

A motion was made to establish the south surfing beach to the full allowable width each morning and to narrow, or reopen, the beach to swimmers based on surfing conditions.

Councilman Frank Knight noted that south-end surfing beach was south of 62nd Street. He questioned where the changes would occur.

“Are we saying south of 62nd or south of 94th?” he asked. “You mentioned 94th Street.”

ESA Executive Director Michelle Sommers recommended the changes occur south of 94th Street.

“In our discussions, south of 94th Street were the better beaches,” she said. “That’s where 94th Street came into play. There are still really good sandbars at 80th Street.”

After further discussion, the motion was amended to establish all surfing beaches to the full allowable width, excluding beaches north of 94th Street.

“So it would stay small north of 94th Street,” Council President Matt James said. “And when it’s south of 94th Street, we’d have both the north and south beach wider.”

Councilman John Gehrig questioned if the ESA was content with the recommendation.

“You offered four recommendations, you have one,” he said. “Is it good?”

One ESA representative said he would also like to see surfing hours extended to 11 a.m. but noted the organization could come back with other requests.

“Also, the surfers offer a little bit of lifeguarding out there …,” he said, noting that they do offer help to swimmers in distress. “That was part of the suggestion.”

Otherwise, Sommers said ESA was grateful for the town’s help and support.

“We’re happy,” she said.

With no further discussion, the council voted 6-0, with Councilman Tony DeLuca absent, to approve the request.

About The Author: Bethany Hooper

Alternative Text

Bethany Hooper has been with The Dispatch since 2016. She currently covers various general stories. Hooper graduated from Stephen Decatur High School in 2012 and the University of Maryland in 2016, where she completed double majors in journalism and economics.