Petition Targets Surf City Ban on Surfing Outside the Flags

Jul 05, 2017

With nearly 1,000 signatures and a Citizens for Surfing Outside the Flags in Surf City Facebook page, a petition to allow surfing outside the flags on guarded beaches in the borough is about family and commerce as much as it is the watersport.

“I know people who don’t buy Surf City beach badges because you can’t surf on the beaches,” said lifelong resident Casey Deacon, 38, who started the petition after spending a day at the beach with family and friends except her husband who was surfing 20 blocks away in Ship Bottom – where surfing is permitted during guarded hours. “We’re the only town on Long Beach Island without surfing and with a business district.”

Deacon said the ban on surfing is costing the borough and local businesses money.

“If you’re surfing in Ship Bottom you’re not going to drive 20 blocks and get lunch in Surf City,” she said, acknowledging Ship Bottom and Surf City are the most convenient towns on the 18-mile Island for surfing and grabbing a quick bite to eat, especially for daytrippers. “If surfing was allowed we would take money from Ship Bottom.”

She said the time was right to petition the borough because leadership has changed, and although former Mayor Leonard T. Connors did great things for the borough, he was hard-line on no pets on the beach and no surfing outside the flags. Still, she acknowledged there was a time when that made sense, but the time has passed.

“The perception of surfers has changed from the 1960s and 1970s,” she said. “It’s a healthy sport, a family sport. Why split up families because you can’t surf?”

Support for the petition has been overwhelmingly positive across social media, even among non-surfers, Deacon said.

“Where is the opposition?” she asked. ”I don’t think there is any.”

Deacon said she’s thought about why allowing surfing outside the flags during guarded beach hours could be problematic.

“You can’t govern anything worrying about a hypothetical situation,” she said. “You can’t stop progress.”

For those worried that surfers would distract or stretch the limits of the lifeguards, Deacon said she knows surfers, including her own husband, who have aided or rescued others because they were in the water. It’s happened on guarded and unguarded beaches, she added.

“Put up a sign that says surf at your own risk,” she said, noting it’s what surfers have been doing for years when surfing after hours or in the offseason.

Deacon is realistic that she probably won’t have an answer to her petition before the season is over. The borough council only meets once a month, and the next meeting is Wednesday, July 12. Deacon plans to hand deliver the petition to Mayor Frances Hodgson and the council during the public portion of that meeting. If social media is any indication, she could be joined by some of the surfing community when she presents the petition.

“I am a very patient person,” she said, adding if it can’t get done this year, “I hope we can resolve it before next season.”

— Gina G. Scala

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