Use of jet skis at Mavericks surf break debated

A surfer rides a wave in Half Moon Bay, Calif., near the site of the famous Maverick's big wave surf contest, Tuesday, Jan. 25, 2011.(AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez)
February 10, 2011 8:52:08 PM PST
On the San Mateo County Coast Thursday, a near death has given a controversial issue new life.

"It was a miracle, an absolute miracle," Debbit Trettie said. She was describing the effort that saved her son, Jacob, on Jan. 22. He had been surfing at Mavericks when a large, rogue wave dragged him under, nearly drowning him. Jacob barely survived, and only because a photographer on a jet ski rescued him.

But, by the letter of the law, that jet ski should never have been there. The Mavericks break is part of the Gulf of the Farralons National Marine Sanctuary, where jet skis are subject to fines for most of the year. They are legal on designated high surf days and when involved in a rescue. Jan. 22 was not one of those days.

"There should be someone out there when there are big waves of any kind," argued Frank Quirarte, who coordinates volunteer rescue crews for the annual surf contest. "Mavericks is the only spot not allowed to have a volunteer rescue team standing by at any time. It makes no sense to me that every time I go out there, I am breaking the law when I might be saving someone's life."

"You are not in danger if you do not go into dangerous waves," Mary Jane Schramm, who speaks for the Gulf of the Farralons National Marine Sanctuary, said. "Jet skis can run over seals, sea otters and nesting birds resting on the water."

But something has to give. Thursday, the Gulf of the Farralons Advisory Council got an earful from local surfers and environmentalists hoping for a compromise. The Committee takes the position that it is in the conservation business, not rescue.

Surfers, meanhile, want a certified volunteer force, free from permits.

"Is there a better environmentalist than a surfer?" Quirarte asked.

"[There's] too much red tape, to me," Debbie Trettie said. "Let's get it together."

"We are trying to be reasonable about this," Schramm said.

The panel did appear more reasonable, Thursday, in that members were talking, and listening.

"We got what we want, today," Quirarte said. "I heard them say the word 'volunteer.'"

In the meantime, there is no timetable for a next step.


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