Byline: Taylor Hill
NEWPORT BEACH — Paddleboarders plying the waters of Newport Harbor won’t have to worry about any new city regulations aimed at their recreational activity, as Newport Beach City Council members rejected a recommendation for regulations to be discussed by the Newport Beach Harbor Commission.
The move came at the council’s Sept. 25 meeting. Councilwoman Leslie Daigle brought up the issue of increased numbers of paddleboarders in Newport Harbor, many of whom are new users who do not have knowledge of basic navigation Rules of the Road. She requested that the Harbor Commission explore possible educational and regulatory options for stand-up paddleboarders in the harbor.
Daigle said the issue of added congestion in the harbor due to stand-up paddling’s increasing popularity is placing large watercraft in tight quarters with kayakers and paddlers.
“I had a boat owner with a 38-foot Meridian explain that sometimes paddleboarders will turn into his boat’s path — and it’s not that easy for a vessel that weighs 12 tons to stop on a dime, even at slow harbor speeds,” Daigle said.
Daigle said she had received other recommendations from the public on the matter, including the creation of a controlled training area in the harbor for novice paddlers to learn how to navigate, and even one proposal that air horns be utilized by kayakers and paddlers on the water, to warn oncoming traffic.
The idea of paddleboard or human-powered craft lanes in the harbor had also been discussed, based on a plan created in Oahu, Hawaii to separate swimmers and paddleboarders in a congested area of the harbor.
In Dana Point, county officials recently expanded the 5 mph zone at the harbor entrance, due in part to the influx of paddleboarders and kayakers traversing the area. With other harbors taking notice, Daigle said the Harbor Commission should look at possible improved safety measures for Newport Harbor.
But the rest of the council did not see the issue as important enough to spend the Harbor Commission’s time on it.
“This really seems like a solution looking for a problem,” said Councilman Stephen Rosansky. “I look at all of the little kids on Laser sailboats or these yacht clubs having beer can races in the harbor and going all over the place, and the big party boats going down the center of the channel; they’re not going to stop for these guys, and we’re not out regulating them.”
Rosansky said that city council members have enough on their plates as it is, and he said he wanted to make sure the Harbor Commission spent time on issues of higher priority.
Daigle countered by pointing out that harbor safety is one of the issues the Harbor Commission is charged with examining, and the paddleboarding issue fits in that category.
Councilman Ed Selich, who lives on the bayfront, said he had never seen the paddleboards causing an issue in the harbor. “It’s much ado about nothing,” Selich said. “We would be taking away time from the Harbor Commission doing other more important things.”
Harbor Commission chairman Doug West attended the meeting and told the council members that having commissioners examine the topic and see if there is or is not a problem could be useful.
“I think given the level of public concern expressed on the topic, it might be useful to seek the commission’s advice on the issue,” West said.
The council voted unanimously to discontinue further talks on regulating paddleboarding and agreed to have the Harbor Commission discuss a more general approach to safety in the harbor.