After an uproar over the growing use of larger bodyboards led the Ocean City Beach Patrol to enforce a decades-old ban on those longer than 42 inches, city officials have decided to temporarily lift the 1970s ordinance.
Complaints of reckless use of stand-up bodyboards, known as beater boards, in the waters off Ocean City led town authorities last week to briefly enforce the old law banning bodyboards larger than 42 inches long, 24 inches wide and 4 inches thick. After an outcry from local surfers and surf shop owners such as Lee Gerachis of Malibu's Surf Shop, town officials decided at a meeting Monday to halt enforcement of the law for now.
The decision was made with the added provision that all bodyboarders have a leash attached to their board and that they maintain a distance of 10 yards from swimmers.
As someone who rides beater boards almost every time I'm in the water, the ruling seems fair. The boards were already technically illegal so at least the ban is lifted. While adding a leash is slightly annoying, it's a fair compromise considering that a full-blown ban of the boards was on the table.
It's amazing to me that the controversy got to this point in the first place. In many ways it might have been inevitable given the law against the larger bodyboards was already in place, the rise in popularity of 'Beater' boards and the peaking summer crowds. But much of this dispute comes down to the behavior of swimmers and surfers as they attempt to co-exist.
I've been in the surf many times when it's crowded and had no issues, but I've had just as many times where problems arose. Often there are large groups of people on bodyboards, concentrated in a certain area, and swimmers decide the best place to stand, horse around and relax is right in the line of fire of the bodyboarders. Other times, I have seen bodyboarders who don't seem to have any regard for the large crowds of swimmers in certain areas and just do as they please. It all comes down to using your head and being considerate of others.
If you're a swimmer, be mindful of the people on bodyboards and don't swim right in their line. If you are a bodyboarder and it gets too crowded with swimmers, try to move down the line to a less crowded spot. In the height of summer, the water does get so crowded at times that it might be impossible to maneuver out of the way. But there's no need for anyone to stand their ground. Everyone, local or vacationer, swimmer or surfer, is there to enjoy the beach. Everyone just has to share.
The key is all of this is just to be alert and mindful of everyone around you. Everyone, you have your job, bills and every other responsibility in life to frustrate you; there is no need to get bent out of shape at the beach.