Rise of the O.C. surfer

The Baltimore Sun

Good news for surfer dudes and dudettes: For the first time in a generation, Ocean City has decided to establish a section of beach that surfers can call their own. Located near the Ocean City Inlet, the block-long surfing spot will be theirs exclusively on weekdays but will revert to a swimmers' beach on the crowded weekends as part of a summer-long experiment. As the participants might say, it's a totally epic move by the big kahunas, man.

In recent years, Ocean City has allowed surfing in the early mornings and during the evenings - when it doesn't interfere with other beachgoers - and on a rotating basis at selected beaches. But not all sections of the shoreline have the ideal waves, and surfers say the inlet has some of the area's best - "clean" waves that "bowl" toward the beach without much interference from chop or cross-currents.

Surfers say the decision recognizes the growing popularity of their sport. When the weather permits, an estimated 1,500 people can be found surfing in Ocean City during the off-peak hours when it's allowed. That's many times more than what the resort town witnessed in the 1980s (the last time a beach was designated for surfers). In part, that may be because the sport has become more mainstream than counterculture, with whole families hanging 10 together.

Ocean City may never pass for Hawaii's North Shore or even Malibu, but the decision shows that a summer vacation "downey ayshin" can be more than sitting on the beach and scarfing Thrasher's french fries. Western Maryland has embraced extreme sports - a newly opened man-made whitewater course being the latest example - and Ocean City would be wise to encourage the active vacationer, too. Surfing consumes as many calories as playing beach volleyball or weightlifting, and that can give a person a much bigger appetite for boardwalk fries and funnel cakes.

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