PWC Ban: What Really Happened

by John Donaldson

I read with interest your well-written article about the status of the tow-in surfing situation in Monterey Bay NMS.

(But) you rely way too much on Doug Ardley’s (Surfer’s Environmental Alliance) spin as to what happened. The blame (for tow-in surfing consensus falling apart) lies squarely at the feet of Doug Ardley and Susan Danielson (Save Our Shore).

Let me explain.

In the March meeting, Peter Mel made a masterful presentation of what the tow-in surfing at Maverick’s is all about. He drew lines on the nautical charts. He talked about the numbers of people involved. He addressed the need to establish some sort of qualifying process, acknowledged the need for enforcement if regulations were enacted and gracefully agreed to a draft idea to pay for the administration and enforcement, costs that would come down on the tow-in community exclusively.

To my way of thinking, Peter Mel was the master of diplomacy. He never got defensive, never got rattled by the nit-picking of the vehement and tenacious anti-tow in folks, and was willing to sacrifice tow-in anywhere else along the 50 miles stretch of MBNMS to save the sport at Maverick’s. At the end of the day on March 23rd (meeting #3) there was mostly optimistic head nodding around the table. Peter certainly appeared to have carried the day.

Fast forward to the next, most recent and last meeting, April 22.

One item of contention–the group could not agree–was on the definition of a motorized PWC. The anti-PWC group, including Mr. Ardley, were insistent that the definition be so broad so as to include any motorized vessel that could ever be used to facilitate tow-in surfing. Ardley’s intent was never stated, but it was as clear as a 20′ wave at Maverick’s.

Opposing this quest for an all inclusive, leave no possible boat unexamined, approach were such died-in-the-wool PWC advocates as the US Coast Guard, the Recreational Boater of California [RBOC–the sail boat and marina crowd] and the Harbor Masters from Moss Landing and Half Moon Bay. As a representative of PWC, I did not have to say a word to block a consensus. Admittedly, I said I would abstain from any all-inclusive definition.

So without a consensus of what a MPWC was, we moved forward.

Then the surprise of surprises.

When we were individually polled on the tow-in surfing scheme, on which there had been general agreement in the previous workshop, Doug Ardley and Susan Danielson voted for no consensus.

Then Doug launched into a mantra stating that he had been initially supportive of a complete ban on tow-in surfing but that he had compromised. However now, without compromise on the definition of a PWC, he could not support the plans for Mavericks.

There was instant drama when Ardley made that pronouncement. The RBOC rep, Russ Robinson, immediately interrupted and said that if Ardley was going to hold other issues hostage to an agreement on a MPWC definition, then he, Russ, was through – that the whole process was a railroad job and had wasted everyone’s time. Russ was gathering up his papers and clearly getting ready to depart.

Now Russ is a guy who is not prone, I don’t think, to explosions of exasperation. But his perception of Ardley’s intransigence had pushed him over the edge.

I might add that there seemed to be looks of agreement on the faces of the harbor master contingency, the Coast Guard and a few others.

The NOAA folks clucked and cooed. The members of the Sanctuary Advisory Council who were present had sort of emergency conferencing out of our hearing. And that was the end of consensus seeking on the tow-in surfing.

I can unequivocally say that I, representing the PWC industry, and the guy representing the PWC owners, never once took any position on the tow-in proposals. The derailment of the process is completely in the court of Doug Ardley and the Save Our Shores people.

You might try to find out why Susan Danielson (SOS) was in general agreement in March, and then totally blindsided Peter Mel and the Mav’s consensus in April. I believe someone in her organization or one of the organization sponsors gave her new orders in the month between meetings.

Good luck finding that out.

I have NO stake regarding the surf tow-in issues. I said, more than once in the course of the four workshop sessions, that the people who wanted to deal with the tow-in issue should go lock themselves in a room and not come out until they had a consensus. I would not block consensus regarding tow-in surfing.

John Donaldson – Personal Water Craft Industry Association

email Scott Bass –