PWC Banned from Rip Curl Search Event

The National Park Service denies the use of Jet Ski assistance during the Ocean Beach Tour event

| posted on September 19, 2011

Competitors can expect a grueling paddle come November if the PWC ban at the Search is not overturned. Photo: Gilley

According to a recent story in the San Francisco Examiner, when the holding period of the Rip Curl Search Event at Ocean Beach begins on Nov. 1, it will be doing so without the use of personal watercraft. Known for its sweeping currents and shoulder-searing paddle-outs, critics say that the recent ruling from the National Park Service banning PWC at the contest not only carries potential safety hazards, but could also see competitors spending copious amounts of time paddling.

In 2009, a law was enacted that banned PWC from operating in the area. According to the National Parks Service (NPS), among other risks, PWC were said to dispel too much pollution.

Initially, the NPS had forged an agreement with the Search event to allow PWC for the one-time event, but according the San Francisco Examiner, today’s statement reneges on that agreement.

In reaction to the ruling from the NPS, the ASP’s Dave Prodan voiced his disappointment, stating that the primary reason for having PWC at events is for the safety of competitors and officials.

“First and foremost, the PWCs at ASP World Title events exist for safety reasons. If our competitors or staff get into a dangerous situation, having the PWC there obviously allows help to get to them much quicker. This is especially important at events with large surf or where the competitors are positioned relatively far from shore,” says Prodan. “The ocean is a dynamic venue and it offers up a variety of challenges that can manifest at a moment’s notice. With the high level of surfing that goes on at ASP World Title events, competitors are especially at risk to injury as they are constantly pushing the boundaries of high-performance surfing.

“The secondary reason for PWCs at our events is to provide competitors with Jet Ski assist during the man-on-man heats. Once a surfer completes a ride, they may elect to hop on the back of a PWC to get back out to the lineup faster. This allows for more waves to be ridden, creating a better product for our audience.”

According to parks spokesman George Durgerian, the NPS opted to ban PWC at the event because they believed the watercraft were going to be used more to expedite the event than for safety. “They said that this was going to be for public safety,” said Durgerian. “The more we thought about it, the more we realized it was actually for convenience.” The article went on to state that “if the park loosened its standards for the surf contest, it could set a precedent for watercraft use at future events, including the 2013 America’s Cup yacht races.”

The story in The Examiner went on to state Ocean Beach lifeguards in the area will have access to the event through their own PWC and that they will be charged with rescues. “…if something does go wrong,” said lifeguard James Matthew, “we’re 100 percent ready for anything.”

SURFER was unable to get a quote from Rip Curl at the time of this story, but according to Prodan, the event’s organizers are still hoping to reverse the ruling.

“It’s my understanding that Rip Curl is still working very closely with National Park Services to come up with a decision that is favorable for the event and takes precautions in regards to the safety of the athletes. It’s unfortunate to learn of the NPS’s recent decision to ban the use of PWCs for the event.”

To read the full story from the San Francisco Examiner, click here.

  • Mik

    George Durgerian of the Parks Department is a complete idiot. His comment that the use use of PWC’s was bad, “because they might be used to expedite the event”, infers that although the City has approved of a World Class Surfing event, he and the Parks Department have essentially chosen to undermine it for what can only be interpreted as personal reasons. Otherwise, please explain to us George: what is wrong with helping make the event more functional? World Tour level Surf contests ALL OVER THE WORLD — in ocean environments far more beautiful and clean than Ocean fucking Beach — support the use of of PWC’s, both to make the contests MORE watchable by enabling the Competitors to focus on surfing, rather than on paddling marathons. And they are also there in case of injuries, and to help surfers in trouble. This decision is one more fucking stupid decision by regressive, or ideologically weird members of the SF government who put their pathetic pettiness above the needs and interests of the City’s athletic community. How many fucking contests have there been of this caliber at Ocean Beach??? ZERO. So it’s not like this has been an ongoing issue, you know??? And George Durgerian, I ask you: how negative will it be to have PWS in the Ocean Beach area for what, 5 days???? Especially when there are tankers belching massive oil into the Bays waters daily, not to mention sewage runoff, and so on and so on. The Parks Department needs to be straightened out on this decision. They are both anti community, and anti surfing in this decision. What a bunch of fucking out-of-touch-with-reality losers.

  • dudeface

    Awesome. if you want to see the surfers on more waves give them 40 minutes to surf. It’s just as entertaining for this “audience” member to see them struggle with a paddle out like the rest of us. Surfing is not just about shredding a wave to bits, it’s the entire experience, paddle out included.

  • Gumby

    Let the boys paddle. There is no reason that these world-class athletes cannot paddle back out to the lineup under their own power. Their job is to surf, paddle, and take beating for the enjoyment of the audience not ride PWC.

  • Mik

    BTW: Yes, I do surf Ocean Beach in double overhead conditions, and I know all about the heavy currents and long paddles. So what??? The WTC surfers excel in everything, including flat out charging in life-threatening 15 ft surf at Teachupo’o — so what is this clown “George Durgerian of the Parks Department” trying to say??? That the paddle-out is the important thing??? The heats are 30 minutes each George… People are NOT going to wanna watch people paddling the fucking Heat away, you know??? The WTC does not need to prove its manliness to anyone, and especially you George. They are ALL studs. They have all been in more life-threatening situations than damn near the entire NFL, NBA, MLB, MLS combined. Your fucking simpleminded attitude is just another example of environmental clueless fanaticism that makes reasonable people distrust environmentalists—and I am an environmentalist. If you want the City to have a paddling content, organize it George. Otherwise, either get on board with the Rip Curl event planners, or fucking resign. The City of SF doesn’t deserve to be embarrassed by idiots of your ilk..

  • 23 Chips

    The Chips gives a thumbs up and will be offering a crash course fitness program for tour surfers that need some extra paddle power. Supersets of curls, declines and shrugs will have them looking pumped when they run up the beach after getting denied on the paddle out.

    Who wants to take a bet that Dane Reynolds will still be injured for this event?

    23 Chips

  • G

    Assuming complaints are voiced in hope they will lead to a satisfactory resolution.
    Gee Mik, you really are a keen negotiator. It’s a good thing Rip Curl (hopefully) can deny knowing you. Just in case someone points this article out to any of the people responsible for making decisions on this matter. The first rule of any negotiation: Never put someone in a corner that they can’t get out of gracefully. You’re not doing anybody any favors…

  • Mik

    I am a free man in a free world speaking in a public blog. The SF Parks Department made a juvenile decision that effects the entire surfing community in Northern California, and as a very long time participant in that community I believe that I am self-obligated to point out their error, in the language of the world that both I and they live in. There is no downside to allowing the WCT to utilize PWS within the confines of the contest format. NONE. George Durgarian has no line of reasoning that can hold up to any form of logic that can conclude otherwise. If you have a problem with that, then that is your problem, not mine. I have nothing whatsoever to do with Rip Curl, or the WCT.

  • fred

    No way. When OB gets big, there will be needed PCW assistance. I’ve spend an hour an a half paddling to the line up, on a double over head day. Lots of currents, rips, and a very foamy inside. It will be tough on 30 minutes heat.

  • Ben

    I gotta agree, no PWC’s makes a paddling contest with alot of missed waves. Not as good for spectators in the internet era. Probably Rip Curl’s fault for using Australian rap in their videos…

  • Jeff Knox

    Since when are paddling and swimming not essential to surfing? Great surfers should be able to display great skill in both. Witness Barry K. and Jeff Hackman at big Sunset Beach without cords. The contest will probably have more problems with broken cords and broken boards. Let the waves and conditions sort them out. May the best waterman win.

  • Read

    The NPS will have specific rules about pwc. The asp should read those a few times. It is possible that the skiis can be on the water but not on the land. Launch from a public boat ramp nearby not contolled by the NPS and then keep the ski off the beach.

  • Marcus Kaufner

    dave prodon has to be the smartest bastard at aps, always says something intelligent

  • Kipper

    If these “pros” are too lazy to paddle then don’t paddel out. Locals surf this spot in all conditions w/o pwc; the best in the world should be able to do the same.

  • Mik

    The expressed idea that the Pros might not be up for the paddle out is ridiculous.

    These guys can surf anything, and they are not scared. The issue is time, and entertainment.

    If the guys blogging here want to see long paddle outs, they can watch any day of the week. PWS are used during WCT events for both safety and to keep the athletes surfing, which is the whole point. They were used at Teachupo’o to get the guys off the reef… Should the reef dance have been a major part of the event? They are used in macking Sunset and at Pipeline. Are you bloggers sitting there thinking you’re the heavier dudes because you can paddle out here??? And how do you surf once you’re out?? Not so impressive, typically. These guys will take surfing to a new level in the City, where there are only about 8-10 guys in the entire area who can surf at remotely the same consistency level as these WCT pros.

    So stop the lame responses, stop trying to support a completely lame decision by the Parks Department.

    They should be making every effort to support Rip Curl, or whomever, to make this an exciting event, based on the same formulas that the WTC uses everywhere else. The WTC should be making the call, not some ideologue Park Department marketing tool who thinks that 5 days of PWS’s are somehow more environmentally damaging than the fleets of city block long tankers and tourist ships spewing out of the Bay, DAILY.

    Trying to make this “special” by banning PWS is ridiculous. You’re all drinking too much Dr. Renekar brand cool-aid.

  • Filthy the Bear

    It seems to me that to schedule an event at a place where jet skis are banned is pretty stupid in the first place. Is it really that difficult to find a surf spot without a ban? I don’t think they can set a precedent here. It would be a bad idea.

  • http://none Mike

    wow, Im almost embarrassed by some of the replies Im reading here…

    have all of you so soon forgot that very little time has passed since PWC werent used AT ALL for contests ?
    for hundreds of years, people have been riding waves without the benefit of PWC and doing just fine. yes, there has been the occasional drowning, which we see in ALL categories of watersports, not just surfing…
    grow some nads and surf as it it was meant to be…

  • Mik

    Mike: 2- 10 ft, PWS not needed… 10 – 15 ft. PWS needed, not to surf it, but to have interesting heats dominated by surfing, not paddling.

    It’s a different world now.

    A few years ago, until Laird towed into a death wave, Teachupoo wasn’t surfed at that size.

    A few years ago, we had no hand-held computers too, so I guess your theory is?….

    Ah, this is a waste of time. If you don’t get it, you don’t get.

    The point is: The ASP knows how to put on great surfing events. And should be supported in their efforts. Not evaluated by a gardener who is suddenly the spoke-sperson for the City of SF on how surfing events should be run.

  • HB Donboy

    NPS DON”T SURF ! I didn’t know Ocean Beach was part of a National Park, and therefore under the jurisdiction of the NPS. In any case, I have to side with Mik, this event has the potential to be a success… or it can be a drag to watch. I have never surfed Ocean Beach, but I have seen it going ballistic, and I have to admit that even in my prime, me and my Sponge Bob arms didn’t want anything to do with it. I’d love to see the best charge 10+ OB, and I hope it’s nasty and hairball as it gets. NPS…please keep your bureaucratic and inefficient mug out of this event… sit back, and enjoy the carnage.

  • J.J.

    This isn’t the catalina challenge or the molokai channel paddle contest.

    Im not sure if the ‘CT guys need to prove to anyone if they can paddle. Thats called “freesurfing”. They kill themselves to get on this circuit. They should get hot tubs, saunas rubdowns, and Frisco waitresses in bikinis. if surfing is the sport of kings, this should be a contest for kings.

    all i can say i don’t want to watch someone trying to make it out the back for 35 minutes.
    I want to watch SURFING!

  •!/P_a_c_N_W PacNW

    The world champion of surfing shouldn’t be decided at fickle beach-breaks, just because those waves happen to be within spitting distance of large affluent markets targeted by big surfy clothing corporations.

    The world title should be decided by the best surfers in the best waves. Sorry OB, I surf here all the time. The bottom line is that it isn’t Indo/Fiji/Tahiti/Hawaii. It isn’t where you would go if you could anywhere in the world on a surf trip.

    There is of course the other side of the argument, which is, “we’d love to see what the best do where the rest of us surf.” If the ASP is going to let the world champion be decided in less than the best waves in the world, then have your cake, Dave Prodran et al. But, I’m with dudeface, ‘you can’t eat it too’. Give the competitors some extra time in the heats to make the paddle. But show us the full experience. Don’t sugar coat it.

    Surfing OB is paddling OB. Period.

    That said, early November is probably a little earlier for such a big swell anyway.

  • http://SurfingOBispaddlingOB.Period. Mik

    PacNW / “Surfing OB is paddling OB. Period.”

    I respect this comment. It’s spot on. Its the bottom line regarding surfing OB.

    But the fickleness of OB is an equally real facto. And it becomes part of that bottom line regarding trying to get 3 contestable days out there, in a small window. So having longer heats is out. It’s not going to happen.

    All I’m saying is: let the WTC run it the way they believe is best for an ASP contest. If someone wants to run an open to all, one day event, no PWS, no support, winner takes all, cool. Do it. But don’t mess with the WTC machine in SF, when everywhere else is playing their rules. And especially don’t make the decision based on a non-existent environmental danger, in the face of the reality of what goes on in the Bay.

  • SLam

    This is a tough one. My gut agrees that the PWCs should only be used for rescues, because surfing is unique in that it really is more than just the ride- it’s the paddle, positioning, dealing with currents, etc. It’s not shagging your own balls at a tennis match- it is a part of the physical actual experience of surfing. Also there are a lot of sports (most probably) where the endurance is a key factor as well as the performance. If surfing is trying to be accepted as a mainstream sport (isn’t that what the ASP and the pro’s are doing?) why shouldn’t endurance and conditioning be rewarded? Make the heats longer for sure. ON THE FLIPSIDE, one must understand there are different types of audience: As an OB surfer I want to see them paddle just to see how they do in the trying conditions. I figured most other surfers would want to see that too. Most people who don’t surf will quickly get bored watching guys paddle for twenty minutes each wave, prob not good for ASP marketing. So they have that agenda going. No one is really talking about getting ride of the chairlift at snowboarding events, are they? But I just think the ocean is different, surfing is paddling too, and I want to see the best doing it all, and I know they can. I just really hope, pray, there’s good waves, whatever they decide. Because OB can be epic…but it can SUCK too..

  • sas

    I do remember someone saying about guys jumping off a pier to get out the back, he was not impressed and simply said “If you can`t paddle out then you should not be out there”. He was right and is still right. Paddling out in difficult conditions is part of surfing, making the right decision to go and not get caught out in a load of set waves is also part of it-something that comes with experience. Plus, and I have to admit it, we want to see these guys suffer a little don`t we? Like we all do every day as “normal” surfers. It was interesting to see what happened here in Portugal at Supertubos when the top guys arrived, injuries broken boards etc and it will be interesting to see what happens in S.F. A lot more interesting than the current Trestles yawnfest. Oh, and I hate jetskis…really hate the things.

  • Lifetime Loke

    I hope they get good conditions at OB, but Sean Collins is a Socal guy and doesn’t know Jack about OB except the swell forecasting, at which he’s unbelievably good. During most winters the area they picked for the contest gets ridiculously washy and current filled during incoming tides. The bigger the swell, the worse it gets. People get sucked out all the time. If it’s really big, then even pros will have to paddle in through the cauldron and walk a half mile down the beach and take 15-30minutes to paddle out again to the contest area. Not good for spectating. With all due respect to the lifeguards, I really do hope that they have a PWC on hand in case, because if they try a rescue in big surf on those longboards, they will be the ones that need to be rescued. Do you really think a part-time lifeguard can outpaddle Owen or Jordy?

  • Lawton

    No exciting moral issues at stake, just garden variety office politics.

    NPS OK’d the skis as rescue craft in light of recent mavericks deaths just down the coast. Nobody wants blood on their hands. After mulling over it (and likely talking to some grumpy old locals), they clearly realized the PWC’s were a mainly a convenience for contest logistics and reneged. The NPS boss doesn’t want to be seen as the one to break their own laws to pander to industry whim.

    From NPS perspective, it’s a national park… not a ski slope.

    Up to 2x overhead +, the pros will just embarrass the rest of us old stubborn coots. Once in a blue moon OB sees makable waves over 3x overhead – this is where the PWC’s would make an EPIC contest out of unpaddleable OB. There is a reason those upper avenues shots of huge, “clean” OB are unpopulated. Bigger than about 3x and it just turns into a giant closed out mess.

    But never mind the paddle out… How are the judges even going to SEE if the fog rolls in???

  • jojo

    all the soul bro’s here keep talking about surfing being a complete experience. it’s about the paddling, the ocean skill, the watermen, maaan. yeah yeah, we get it. i agree, but dudes–this is a surf contest. it’s not a laird hamilton biopic. the judges score maneuvers. they don’t care how well owen wright paddles. and i don’t know about you, but i ain’t puttin my ass on that god forsaken Muni train to foggy, butt-cold Ocean Beach at seven in the morning to watch Kelly Slater practice his f-ing duckdive. come on, boys. there are no two ways about it. if we get real swell but can’t use pwc’s at OB, this will become a paddling competition. and a huge embarassment for Rip Curl and the ASP.

  • TWON

    in my opinion, here is how they blew all together,,,,, they should have had the contest at blacks in sd. no joke. its way better than that windy sf crap. and wayyy more of a “surf industry market” if they want to play that game too

  •!/P_a_c_N_W PacNW

    Mik/”But the fickleness of OB is an equally real facto.”

    // So, why is the ASP having a contest in SF? It isn’t because Dave Podran wants the world champion decided by putting the best surfers in the best waves, it’s so the corporations (that are running the show) can expose new consumers to their brand. Mik, why wouldn’t I want to question the “WCT Machine?” //

    // I don’t have any sympathy with the contest format not being able to be run in three days if the heats are longer. The first two days of the contests are 99% meaningless anyway. Too many surfers in the draw and too many three man heats before the wheat is separated from the chaff. And here’s another idea, if the waves are that big, then just run the overlapping heats like they do to accommodate all the wildcards at Pipe. //

    // If the surfy corporations want to come to SF and expose an urban market to how sexy the surfy life-style is, then do us all a favor and and show that new market what it really means to surf in San Francisco in the winter. There will be no jet-skis when Rip Curl’s newest customers paddle-out for the first time after the contest. So don’t sugar coat it or try to hide the ugly truths of that experience like Billabong tried to do with Andy Irons’ overdose. //

    // Show them that they better Learn to Swim. //

    // Surfing OB is paddling OB. //

  • The beard

    If you have any knowledge about the surf here at OB, then you would know that the north end of the beach rarely gets anywhere near the size or long paddle distance of the rest of the beach. The ASP guys are beasts, and will put a lot of this argument to rest when they are here. I personally like that there will be no paddle assist, it will be that detail that separates this contest from the rest.

    These guys will do just fine, it is all these surf nerds I am worried about.

    Let it go, please.


    The Beard

  • Dylan

    Does San Fran have gay surfers? Specially in OB.

  • JJ

    The beard has it about right. It’s not an easy paddle but it won’t be a problem for these guys unless it’s really big. I love how the media is circulating pix of double overhead + clean A frames. As a regular, I know that it could be spitting barrels but more likely it will be outside burgers and inside closeouts. They should have had it at Blacks – keep the media whores and the acolytes in their pimped out duds in a place where people care about the tour.