Officials to consider Mavericks jet ski patrol proposal

August 11, 2011 5:30:44 PM PDT
The controversy over using jet skis at surfing competitions like Mavericks is back.

The debate is over balancing the need to save human lives, like one rescue that took place in January, with the risk to endangered sea creatures from jet skis. The San Mateo County Sheriff's Department is developing a training plan in case the jet skis gain approval.

In January, a surfer nearly drowned after being hit by a series of big waves off the Mavericks break. Had it not been for a photographer on a jet ski, he likely would have died.

Surfers ant jet skiers sometimes work together to catch the big waves and work together in rescue situations.

"If you were going to diving, you don't go diving by yourself," said surfer Scott Jarrett. "It's just too big of an ocean to have too many things going wrong. When you have the buddy system, you're really watching out for each other."

But Mavericks Beach is part of the Gulf of the Farralones National Marine Sanctuary. Jet skiers are subject to fines unless there is an emergency or the National Weather Service issues a high surf warning.

Surfers like Jeff Clark told the Gulf of the Farralones Advisory Council on Thursday that jet skis should be out there regardless because on that January day there was no warning issued even though the waves were high.

"It was very big, very dangerous," Clark said. "A human life is very valuable."

Maria Brown with the Gulf of the Farralones says jet skis are regulated to protect wildlife.

"We've had cases of jet skis within the Monterey Bay in which jet skis have run over endangered sea otters, so we want to make sure that the wildlife in this area is protected," Brown said.

But Brown also says there is a concern for the safety of the jet skiers as well. That's why the San Mateo County Sheriff's Department was asked to come up with a plan and to start training volunteers to do public safety rescues on jet skis.

"We're going to work with our public safety partners to develop a plan to have rescuers out on the water," said Sgt. Joe Sheridan with the San Mateo County Sheriff's Department. "Not just for the sanctuary areas, but for the entire coastline of San Mateo County."

The plan is just now being developed, so there are few details, but one thing is for sure: Any training on jet skis in the Mavericks area must be done with a permit and only on days where the NWS has issued a high surf warning. Additionally, everything must be by the book according to the marine sanctuary.


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