To Newport Beach home owners, the blackball flag’s meaning is loud and clear: no surfboards or bodyboards are to be in the ocean while the flag is displayed. But many ocean athletes including bodyboards, surfers, skimboarders and bodysurfers are taking liberties to voice their opinion about new surf access rules.
Recently, about 150 people gathered in Newport Beach to discuss the long-time blackball rule. Top of mind for many interested ocean-going athletes was the eponymous Wedge at the end of the Balboa Peninsula. During the summer when the south swell brings large waves, it’s a haven for board-riders looking for a good time. But it’s also one of the most dangerous areas with incidents rampant throughout the year.
Boarders are asking for more access and for the City of Newport Beach to reconsider the blackball ban that requires all boards to be out of the water between the hours of 10:00 a.m. and 5:00 p.m. from May 1 through October 31. Their argument is that this span of time overlaps the summer months when conditions are sometimes the most favorable.
But swimmers and bodysurfers have a different opinion, noting that the blackball ban on boards is the best way to keep them safe and out of harm’s way. Each year, many swimmers and ocean-goers are hurt by flying boards, which is why the City Council instituted the blackball ban back in 1985. Surfers are asking them to reconsider.
Aaron Peluso, who created the petition that the Blackball Working Group committee and the Parks, Beaches and Recreation Commission are currently reviewing it, adds, “I figured I might as well put something together so that people could have a way to voice their own opinions. I’ve been hoping it would have happened a decade ago.”
To date, close to 1,500 people have signed the online petition that calls for an end to time restraints at the Wedge. According to Rob Williams, the lifeguard battalion chief, the committee and commission will closely review safety as their top priority, and has made it known that the rules might stay the same.
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