Surf Contest Seeks to Reduce Impact on Ocean Beach
The Rip Curl Pro Search surf contest will be coming to Ocean Beach in November 2011, and local surfers have been hotly discussing the pros and cons of having the best surfers in the world surf at Ocean Beach. But a much bigger question has yet to be fully addressed: What impact will the contest have on the beach itself?
Brooke Farris, international events manager for Rip Curl, has a simple answer to that question. “Our motto with hosting surf contests has always been to leave the sites better than we find them,” she said.
“Every area we go to is always impacted by environmental concerns, and we have been aware of the environmental sensitivity of Ocean Beach since we first explored it as a possible location.”
George Durgerian, a spokesman for the Golden Gate National Recreation Area and coordinator for special events, has worked closely with Rip Curl to address the complex factors involved with hosting a surf contest in a national park.
“Just like all other large-scale special events that happen in the national parks, this contest has to comply with the strict standards that are consistent throughout the parks system,” explained Durgerian.
“Our biggest concerns are about the protection of the park’s resources, and continued access for regular park users.”
Durgerian characterized Rip Curl as “responsible and responsive” with regard to the many demands the GGNRA placed on the company order to approve the contest.
Farris was equally positive about Rip Curl’s working relationship with the GGNRA.
“We’re all ears,” she joked. “The parks have had rules and regulations in place for over 100 years, and so those rules are in place for a reason.”
The contest is slotted for a five-day period between Nov. 1 and Nov. 12, depending on wave conditions. Rip Curl has offered to pay for daily beach clean-ups for the duration of the contest window, whether the contest is held on a given day or not. They will also provide local security to patrol the contest area around the clock and will cover the cost of the extra park personnel.
Protection of Resources
One of the key resources at risk at Ocean Beach is the snowy plover, a rare bird species. The bulk of the beach is a protected area for the migratory bird. The contest area will be limited to the northern edge of Ocean Beach, starting at Stairwell 20, two stairwells north of the end of the protection area.
“The location of the contest was deliberately picked in order to stay out of the snowy plover habitat zone,” Farris said.
Another issue is personal watercraft. These motorcycle-like craft are commonly used at surf contests to carry surfers into place from the beach, as well as to rescue any surfers who may be in distress., But PWCs are restricted in the National Parks because of their potential impact to sea life. After consultation with park headquarters in Washington, D.C., the GGNRA agreed to allow PWCs for the exclusive purpose of lifesaving activities during the contest.
While the beach will be active with cameras, judges’ tables and tents, the contest area is on the widest part of Ocean Beach and regular beach-goers should still be able to use the beach in spite of any crowds.
In fact, some Ocean Beach surfers think the contest may actually improve local beach access.
“It’s getting a little old — stepping on glass, not having a place to rinse off after surfing or rinse the dogs before they get back in the car, and worrying about where to go to the bathroom and dealing with litter due to lack of trash and recycle containers,” indicated Andy Olive, an Ocean Beach surfer.
“Rip Curl has the chance to really improve the conditions of the beach.”
Farris agreed: “We are looking at ways that we can contribute to the local area. If nothing else, we can help provide a platform for the community to raise their concerns about the health of Ocean Beach.”
Michael Stewart, vice-chair of the San Francisco branch of the Surfrider Foundation, is also optimistic that the presence of the contest will help raise awareness about concerns facing Ocean Beach. “We view the contest as a way to celebrate what we actually have, and focus on protecting that resource now – and for the future.”