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Surf Schools Steamed Up About Proposed Law

They say the city's favored surf school doesn't have to abide by a law that will put others out of business. UPDATE: The Council has removed the item from the Feb 22 agenda for further research. It also delayed a hearing on requiring bicycle licenses t

Santa Cruz surfing school owners are steamed up about a proposed ordinance that would cut their class sizes to only eight students while allowing the city's vendor, Club Ed, to have as many students as it wants.

"This is taking power, writing a law and tailoring it specifically to the advantage of their business partner," said Dylan Greiner, 35, who runs the Santa Cruz Surf School. "I don't see how that's fair."

The city's new ordinance would give permits to six schools, for which they pay would $750 and be allowed only eight students at a time—for a total of 44 surfers from the schools in the water at the same time. Right now, 36 students are allowed in the water at one time, but there are no limits on how many per school. 

The City Council will take up the proposed ordinance at its meeting Tuesday, sometime after a closed hearing that starts at 2 p.m. The public can testify during the meeting at 809 Center St. # 10, in downtown Santa Cruz. Call 831-420-5020 for information.

"That will put us out of business," said Greiner, who has surfed since he could walk and has taught the sport since he was in high school. "I'm already booking a summer schedule with more students than that. You can't make money with only eight students, and if we all go out of business, that leaves the city's concessionaire with a monopoly."

Greiner said he hopes the city will reconsider this ordinance and work with surf schools to come up with a more fair version for all of the schools. 

Besides limiting the total number of students, the city's current ordinance requires schools to have one teacher for every four students and to have liability insurance; teachers have to wear an approved shirt with INSTRUCTOR labeled on it; they must be Red Cross certified; and they can only use soft boards with a leash.

Surf schools are allowed to bid to be the city's concessionaire. Club Ed has won every bid for the past 19 years, when the process started, said Greiner.

The schools teach at Cowell's Beach, between the Municipal Pier and the Surfer Statue at West Cliff Drive and Pelton Street. If they have a city permit, they aren't allowed to teach anywhere else in Santa Cruz, according to the ordinance. However, non-permitted schools can teach without being regulated at county beaches, such as those around Pleasure Point, said Greiner.

Before 1991, there was one concessionaire by the pier that rented boards and was run by the city's Department of Parks and Recreation. As the demand for lessons grew and the beach became more crowded, the city began regulating the schools and offered a chance for one to become the official concessionaire. 

That school doesn't pay for a permit, but contributes 10 percent of its sales of rentals to the city, which for the last nine years has been $16,000, according to the staff report given to the council. The report, prepared by Recreation Superintendant Carol Scurich, claims there is no fiscal impact, because the city is not raising the $750 permit fee.

Not so, says Greiner and the other school owners. The limits will quite possibly put them out of business.

"What happens if I have eight students and more walk up to take lessons? I can only send them down the beach to the city's school. If this ordinance were universal for all schools, I wouldn't mind. It would be fair competition. But this isn't fair."

Dennis February 22, 2011 at 05:55 AM
I've been surfing Santa Cruz for 30 plus years, I'm not in favor of surf schools in general, just more kooks in the water. However, when was the City Council of Santa been given the power to own, control and regulate the waves, the number of people in the water and the water in the ocean? What next, are they going to charge a fee to surf the lane or Getchells or any other surf spot? Or are they going to start charging a fee when parents or grandparents are teaching there kids to surf?
Paul Burdette February 22, 2011 at 10:45 PM
I wish Dennis comment was steeped in reality, but the reality is the sport of surfing is attractive, and special. Such beauty will attract others and we might as well deal with it. I once had a friend that had a girlfriend so beautiful that where ever they went others admired her. He couldn't deal with it, so they broke up. If you don't like the crowds, stay out of the water especially at a spot like Cowells. The fact is that there are going to be people coming to our paradise, and they want to taste a bit of the lifestyle. That taste includes salt water taffy, as well as a salty feel on your skin only experienced while surfing. What the city is doing is unfair and a violation of antitrust practices. They are a market participant in the surf school industry in Santa Cruz, being that they receive a direct percentage from one of the concessionaires. By passing and enforcing this law with our tax dollars they in danger of creating a monopoly which would be advantageous to the company owning the concession at an expense of the consumer. There are no safeguards built in to regulate Club Ed the current concessionaire, either for safety or overcrowding. The main issue the city council has chosen to spend their time on. I am just glad that we live in a city that this has become a major issue, where crime is no longer important. They paved paradise and put up a parking lot, nahh they just regulated it.
Brad Kava February 24, 2011 at 12:52 AM
Nice comment, Paul. Thanks for posting.
dylan greiner September 08, 2011 at 04:35 PM
City Council meeting regarding this issue and proposed ordinance revisions, postponed from last spring, to take place: Sept.13th 2011 @ 7:00pm council chambers. Please be there.

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