In an attempt to ensure public safety, provide equal access for all Santa Monica beach-goers and maintain high-quality surfing instruction, the City of Santa Monica is looking to increase the regulation of surfing instruction on the city’s beaches.
“We are not looking to hinder people’s opportunities for attending a surf school,” says Callie Hurd, the city’s Open Space Management Division manager. “We’re just trying to ensure that surf schools are operated in a safe and equitable manner.”
Currently, the city’s law allows for groups of less than 20 children or any number of adults to operate a surfing school without a permit or contract.
Also, a limited number of permits are available for larger groups on a first come, first served basis through the city’s Open Space Management Division, Hurd said.
The city is proposing to remove the provision in the city ordinance that allows for groups of less than 20 children or any number of adults to operate a surf school without a permit.
This means that no surf school could operate without a permit issued through the city, regardless of the size of the group.
The city contracts with surf instructors to offer surfing lessons through the city’s Community Programs Division, which provides a wide range of programs and services to residents.
But it’s not typical that a city allows for groups of less than 20 children or any number of adults to operate a surf school without a permit, Hurd said, pointing out that it’s “unusual” that the city has not increased regulation of surf schools sooner.
“I don’t know of any other city that doesn’t regulate surfing school activity,” said Hurd. “So by making changes, we’re bringing Santa Monica in line with how beaches are managed up and down the coast.”
The new regulation should also reduce overcrowding.
“Because other areas and beaches in Southern California are so highly regulated, many surf schools have come to Santa Monica to continue operating,” Hurd said.
But that would stop under new regulations.
The city also wants to reduce the number of permits available — and possibly issue no permits during the summertime.
During summer months and peak-use periods, surf instruction might be limited only to classes offered through the Community Programs Division, Hurd said.
“This is primarily for public safety,” Hurd said. “And also to ensure there’s equal access to the beach and the water — for all users.”
Hurd says there have been a number of complaints that the recent increase in surf schools at Santa Monica State Beach has resulted in significant user-conflicts on the sand and in the water — and disruption for local surfers and beach-goers.
“If you ride your bike down the beach, what you see is a sea of surf schools,” she says. “There are canopies lining the beach, there are wet suits and gear strewn across the beach. It’s really quite chaotic.
“You have intense commercial activity on the beach, including advertising [by surf schools]. You have reduced square footage of the beach for other types of users — like sunbathers, people playing Frisbee and picnickers.
“You have problems with surf schools encroaching on local surfers, other surf schools, swimming areas and other water-based activities. So there’s a safety component, there’s an experience component, there’s a user-conflict component and there’s an aesthetic component.”
Stricter surf school regulations on Santa Monica State Beach would reduce a lot of these problems, Hurd said.
The city wants to hear from the public about what “an appropriate means for dividing up this limited resource, the beach,” is, Hurd said.
The city is holding a public meeting to hear the community’s input on this proposal for stricter regulations at 7 p.m., Monday, November 12th, at the Ken Edwards Center, 1527 Fourth St., Santa Monica.
City staff will evaluate the input they receive from the public at the November 12th meeting — and also that from the Santa Monica Police Department, Los Angeles County Lifeguards, surf school owners and Community Programs Division administrators, among others — and make a recommendation to the City Council.
“We hope to go to City Council on December 11th with a new ordinance for their consideration,” says Hurd.