Locals seek fewer contests at Surfers Point
By Shane Cohn 11/04/2010
A coalition of surfers has formed, seeking a policy limiting the number of surf contests held at Ventura’s Surfers Point.
While the Ventura County Fairgrounds can rent the upper parking lot to surf event coordinators for event setup and parking, the beach is public and there is no limit to the number of contests that can be held at Surfers Point.
“One of the things you have to remember is that anyone can go out there and set up a surf contest. It’s a public beach,” said Ventura County Fairgrounds CEO Barbara Quaid. “There is just so much of what the fairgrounds can control regarding surf contests.”
The 60-member surfer coalition, spearheaded by surfer Daniel Donglemans, fears that if the city doesn’t do something to regulate the number of contests at Ventura’s most populated surf spot, it will become a hazardous and potentially violent surf spot.
On Sunday, Oct. 24, during a Western Surfing Association contest, a 54-year-old surfer was cited for misdemeanor battery after he jumped on the back of a 14-year-old competitor who dropped in on him, according to eyewitnesses.
Before the incident, event coordinators told the man to leave the contest area repeatedly, but with no legal jurisdiction to back up their requests. He refused to leave.
Though Dongelmans made it clear that he does not condone such behavior, that it is an example of what crowded and competitive surf areas may produce without a contest policy.
“These events can, and often do, create unsafe surfing conditions as the contestants compete with the general public for a very limited amount of waves,” wrote Dongelmans in an e-mail. “This forces the contestants to steal waves from other surfers and otherwise behave in a manner not conducive to safety or proper surfing etiquette.”
Dongelmans is urging that there be a policy similar to that in place at Upper and Lower Trestles, two of the most popular surf spots in San Diego County. To host a contest at Lower Trestles, for example, permits range from $30,000 to $100,000, depending on the event. Events cannot be held between July 1 and Labor Day, with a maximum of three events per year and minimum of two full weekend intervals between consecutive events. Contests at Upper Trestles have similar restrictions, but event permits begin at $2,500. Dongelmans, however, would want a restriction on events occurring in the months of November, January and February.
But the beach at Trestles is a part of San Onofre State Beach, and its policy was set by the California State Parks.
Surfers Point, on the other hand, is not a state beach, which leaves a surf contest policy to city officials to determine.
Councilmember Brian Brennan said that he looked into bringing a surf contest policy forward last year, but there weren’t enough major contests coming to the area to spark interest from city officials.
“It’s difficult because the beach and water belong to people of California,” said Brennan. “I don’t think somebody will pay top dollar for a contest here that costs as much as it does at Trestles.”
The cost of renting the upper parking lot at Surfers Point ranges from $500 to $1,000, depending on how much of the lot is rented. In 2010, there have been seven contests of varying sizes that rented from the Fairgrounds, with one more slated for the weekend of Dec. 11, according to a Fairgrounds representative.
Any surf contest that uses city property, such as the California Street promenade, requires a special event permit, which costs about $800 a weekend, estimates Diana Roemner, senior office assistant for the city’s Parks, Recreation and Community Partnership Department. Roemner said there are usually permits for surf contests and camps 14 weekends a year.