Surf Buffer Zone Flag Argued Again in Surf City

Sep 20, 2017
Photo by: Jack Reynolds

Summer may be over, but the debate about the use of flags to designate a buffer zone for surfing on Surf City beaches isn’t, at least among some beachgoers. Jean Daniels, who lives on 18th Street, re-introduced the topic at this month’s borough council meeting, saying she’s thrilled surfing is allowed on all borough beaches, but she’s concerned about the safety for everyone.

“It’s not the surfers,” she told the council at its Sept. 13 meeting. “It’s the swimmers who are swimming outside of the flags.”

In July, the council agreed to allow surfing for the rest of the summer outside of the swimming flags on all borough beaches during guarded hours. For years, surfers could wave ride on only one beach in the borough, which created overcrowding and sometimes dangerous conditions for the surfers. A petition to change that garnered more than 700 signatures before it was delivered to borough hall, and an additional 400 names were gathered prior to the unanimous vote.

By everyone’s account, the trial period for surfing outside the flags was a huge success. The only issue to come up as a result of the decision to allow surfing outside swimming flags is how to designate a proper buffer zone between the two water activities.

“I am really proud of our lifeguards,” Councilman James B. Russell, liaison to the beach patrol, said after reading a letter commending one for saving a father and his two sons. It’s the second consecutive month he’s read such a letter at a council meeting. “We have a really good group.”

Still, he said he’d take Daniels’ concerns, raised in August by Pete Williams, president of the Surf City Taxpayer Association, after he was asked where the buffer zone flags were, back to Beach Patrol Capt. Mark Dileo. The borough deferred to Dileo’s expertise in the matter, and agreed in August no flags were necessary since everything was going so well.

Mayor Francis Hodgson said the idea was to have flags for the swimmers so they wouldn’t go outside the swim flags; not to have buffer zone flags for surfers.

“I think it worked out exceedingly well,” Dileo said when asked about surfing outside of the swimming flags. “The surfers were happy, of course, and the bathers on South Second Street were happy as well. There’s always issues keeping bathers in the flags when the current is strong. Nothing new or unusual here. More flags won’t help.”

Russell said borough officials took everything into consideration when they decided against using flags to label a buffer zone between swimmers and surfers on ocean beaches.

“The flags aren’t that expensive,” Daniels said when making her case for reconsideration, adding she is on the beach almost daily during the summer, and wouldn’t want to see anyone get hurt. “It’s all about safety.”

Safety is something the Surf City Beach Patrol does well, performing 98 rescues this summer and many preventive measures, Dileo said. The number was below average, he noted. The lifeguards are also credited with reuniting nearly 20 lost children with their families, which is about average for the summer, he said.

Gina G. Scala




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