Competitors can expect a grueling paddle come November if the PWC ban at the Search is not overturned. Photo: Gilley

According to a recent story in the San Francisco Examiner, when the holding period of the Rip Curl Search Event at Ocean Beach begins on Nov. 1, it will be doing so without the use of personal watercraft. Known for its sweeping currents and shoulder-searing paddle-outs, critics say that the recent ruling from the National Park Service banning PWC at the contest not only carries potential safety hazards, but could also see competitors spending copious amounts of time paddling.

In 2009, a law was enacted that banned PWC from operating in the area. According to the National Parks Service (NPS), among other risks, PWC were said to dispel too much pollution.

Initially, the NPS had forged an agreement with the Search event to allow PWC for the one-time event, but according the San Francisco Examiner, today's statement reneges on that agreement.

In reaction to the ruling from the NPS, the ASP's Dave Prodan voiced his disappointment, stating that the primary reason for having PWC at events is for the safety of competitors and officials.

"First and foremost, the PWCs at ASP World Title events exist for safety reasons. If our competitors or staff get into a dangerous situation, having the PWC there obviously allows help to get to them much quicker. This is especially important at events with large surf or where the competitors are positioned relatively far from shore," says Prodan. "The ocean is a dynamic venue and it offers up a variety of challenges that can manifest at a moment’s notice. With the high level of surfing that goes on at ASP World Title events, competitors are especially at risk to injury as they are constantly pushing the boundaries of high-performance surfing.

"The secondary reason for PWCs at our events is to provide competitors with Jet Ski assist during the man-on-man heats. Once a surfer completes a ride, they may elect to hop on the back of a PWC to get back out to the lineup faster. This allows for more waves to be ridden, creating a better product for our audience.”

According to parks spokesman George Durgerian, the NPS opted to ban PWC at the event because they believed the watercraft were going to be used more to expedite the event than for safety. "They said that this was going to be for public safety," said Durgerian. "The more we thought about it, the more we realized it was actually for convenience." The article went on to state that “if the park loosened its standards for the surf contest, it could set a precedent for watercraft use at future events, including the 2013 America's Cup yacht races.”

The story in The Examiner went on to state Ocean Beach lifeguards in the area will have access to the event through their own PWC and that they will be charged with rescues. "…if something does go wrong,” said lifeguard James Matthew, “we're 100 percent ready for anything."

SURFER was unable to get a quote from Rip Curl at the time of this story, but according to Prodan, the event’s organizers are still hoping to reverse the ruling.

“It’s my understanding that Rip Curl is still working very closely with National Park Services to come up with a decision that is favorable for the event and takes precautions in regards to the safety of the athletes. It’s unfortunate to learn of the NPS’s recent decision to ban the use of PWCs for the event."

To read the full story from the San Francisco Examiner, click here.