A proposed piece of legislation in Puerto Rico that would have banned surfing in larger waves would have been comical if it had not been close to a reality at the end of February. Surfers were blindsided and taken aback by the proposed House Bill 20, which would have given law enforcement the right to fine, evict and even possibly arrest anyone surfing in conditions deemed “dangerous” by the government.
But on Friday it was turned down, according to El Nuevo Día.
A meeting between House representative Carlos “Johnny” Méndez (who proposed the bill), Ernie Álvarez, executive director of the Federation of Surfing of Puerto Rico, José “Che” Pérez, President of the Chamber Recreation and Sports Commission, José Olmo Terrasa, President of the Board of Directors of the FSPR, Waldemar Volmar Méndez, Secretary of the Recreation and Sports Department, and Ruperto Chaparro, Director of Sea Grant, took place on Friday to discuss House Bill 20.
According to the above post by Álvarez, House Bill 20 was a measure that intended to amend Law Number 430 (Law of Navigation and Aquatic Safety of Puerto Rico). It was decided in the meeting that it would be scrapped for Resolution 227, which will “investigate further the delimitations, regulations and Safety measures established by the State in areas where water sports are practiced.”
Álvarez pointed out that 227 will hopefully secure the coasts of Puerto Rico from the dangers of big surf where 40 drownings a year are said to occur — despite the number of surfers having drowned in Puerto Rico in recent years being a mere fraction of that number.
Puerto Rican surfing legend Otto Flores had this to say to GrindTV about the ban being shot down:
“There are many ways to deal with the issue of people losing lives out in the water. Banning surfers from going out in solid conditions is not the way. It would not even relate to the issue according to statistics. Putting a lifeguard program and educating the public on ocean currents and conditions could help the fact. As for the surfing ban law not passing, that was to be expected — just enforcing that law would become an issue in itself. At the end of the day Puerto Rico dodged a stray bullet … we are happy about that.”
Hopefully Resolution 227 can be a vehicle for helping curb the drownings of tourists and unskilled/uninformed swimmers when the surf kicks up. Removing surfers from the equation (who most times saves the lives of swimmers because there are no lifeguards around) was never the answer.