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Surf’s Up: Southampton Village Restriction On Surfing A Wipe-Out

One issue that will be addressed at the upcoming September 24 public hearing to remove certain portions of the restriction is the concern that surfing schools, camps and other commercial uses of the beaches may interfere with recreational surfers and non-surfing residents enjoyment of the beaches. (Photo: Nicole Barylski)

One of the most pleasurable activities to enjoy while living near or visiting the magnificent beaches of the Hamptons is the ability to grab your surfboard and catch some waves.

This is a time-honored sport and activity for anyone with a board and ability, yet Southampton Village had recently deemed it necessary to enforce a more than 40-year-old restriction on surfing from June 15 to September 15 on all village beaches. The Southampton Police Department therefore found itself in the unenviable position of enforcing the code which could have resulted in fines up to $1,000 for non-compliance.

Southampton Village Mayor Jesse Warren, a surfer himself, advised, "We had an old archaic law on the books for whatever reason, and it came to light when a disgruntled community member called to complain. That is when we immediately took action to review and update the restriction."

No surfers were asked to leave the water, but those with boards on or near vehicles in the parking lot were warned of the restriction. Warren continued, "No tickets were issued and our police department handled the situation in an excellent manner."

Village Code Regulation Section 80-1 (N), adopted in 1977, states: "Surfboarding. To use a surfboard in the water adjacent to that portion of the area lying between the westerly line of Halsey Neck Lane extended southward to the ocean and the easterly line of Old Town Road extended southward to the ocean and also for a distance of 200 feet to the east and west of Fowler Lane extended southward to the ocean, between the 15th day of June and the 15th day of September in each year from 9:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m., prevailing time." What does that mean? In a sea shell - no surfing on all village beaches from Halsey Neck Lane to Old Town Road - about one mile, as well as a stretch of Fowler Lane.

At the Village Board meeting held on Tuesday, August 20, the board voted 5-0 to allow surfing in the previously restricted areas, however, not at Cooper's Beach. An on-line petition put in place by Change.org had received more than 8,400 signatures prior to the board meeting and stated on-line that, "Many of us surfers were told by the police that they would tell us to get out of the ocean and give us tickets if we went in." Additionally, more than 100 peaceful protestors held a "surf-in" this past Sunday to draw attention to the recent restriction, which Warren also attended.

Continuing, Warren relayed, "On Tuesday we decided to form a nine-member committee comprised of surfers, swimmers, residents and others. We are now compiling those names, and that committee will make informed decisions representing each group. We want to be sure that everyone gets to keep surfing as it is a great sport, hobby and recreational activity."

One issue that will be addressed at the upcoming September 24 public hearing to remove certain portions of the restriction is the concern that surfing schools, camps and other commercial uses of the beaches may interfere with recreational surfers and non-surfing residents enjoyment of the beaches.

"I communicate a great deal through my Instagram and am the first mayor to do so. I urge anyone who is interested in this issue to visit there for updates (@mayorwarren)," informed Warren.

Chris Pobat who runs the Southampton Surf Club relayed, "I just want to thank the mayor for acting so quickly on this issue and am happy that the restriction has been lifted, and we can all get back to enjoying the beaches and surfing."

Surfing requires water (and hopefully great waves), just as swimming, sailing, fishing, water skiing, and other activities that give participants the opportunity to bond with Mother Nature in all her glory and well, just have fun. As Warren revealed his surfing skill level as "I'm still learning," perhaps we can all learn that coming together peacefully as a community can make a really big splash.

Eileen Casey spent many years working in the television and music industries in New York City on the "ABC In Concert" weekly series, as well as several prime time network and cable television specials. An award-winning journalist, editor, and artist, and former Editor-in-Chief of Hamptons.com, she enjoys staying warm in Charleston and cool in the Hamptons.

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