OCEAN CITY – Stand-up paddle boards (SUPs) will be allowed in Ocean City’s surf this September with certain stipulations.

On Tuesday evening, Councilman Joe Mitrecic reported on last week’s Recreation and Parks Commission meeting when Ocean City Beach Patrol (OCBP) Lieutenant Ward Kovacs proposed a pilot program to allow SUPs in the ocean, and the commission voted unanimously to forward a favorable recommendation to the full Mayor and City Council.

OCBP recommended allowing SUPs to have full access to the ocean, to include the surf zone on days when surfing is modified starting on the Monday that follows Labor Day, which is Sept. 8 this year. This allows for 22 additional days of access over the existing code. On days when surfing is not modified during the period from Sept. 8-30, SUPs will be prohibited.

Ocean City’s modified surfing beach expands two scheduled rotating surfing beaches during times of good surf and poor swimming conditions and also has the Inlet open to surfers on a conditional basis on the weekends during the summer due to the surfing beaches being overcrowded.

Modified surfing beaches also come into play as the off-season approaches, such as in the month of September when the beaches are less crowded and at the lifeguards’ discretion they will open the ocean to surfers.

Any SUP operators must stay 50 yards away from all swimmers, waders and surfers while launching and beaching and while operating in the surf zone or beyond the surf zone.

Any SUP operator may be asked to return to shore if the OCBP member deems activity to be a possible hazard to the operator or other persons, which includes, but is not limited to hazardous weather such as lightning, or unsafe surf conditions.

All SUP operators must have a leash attached to them and to their board whenever they are using the board in the ocean, which is a standard procedure regarding SUPs in many other locations.

Once beyond the breakers, as determined by the Surf Rescue Technician (SRT) on duty, the SUP must operate in a north or south direction parallel to the beach and no further out than 200 yards.

When returning to the beach while the OCBP is on duty, SUP operators must return within 50 yards of an SRT on duty, so that the SRT can direct them to a safe area and assist in keeping people clear until the SUP is safely under control.

Councilman Brent Ashley made a motion to approve the proposed SUP pilot program to be tested out this September and without discussion the council voted unanimously to approve.

The idea was brought forward last month when Gabriel Mancini, owner of Mancini’s Italian Restaurant in Fenwick Island and an Ocean City resident, came before the Mayor and City Council asking for the Recreation and Parks Committee to examine Ocean City’s code to consider having SUP be reclassified as a surfboard to be allowed in the ocean’s surf during the time of modified surfing beaches.

In turn, the Recreation and Parks Commission directed the OCBP to come up with a recommended pilot program that would safely allow SUP operators’ access to the ocean for a few weeks in September, prior to the Sept. 30 expiration of the current code restrictions.

SUPs are generally longer than nine feet with some extending longer than 12 feet with one to three surfboard style fins in the stern for tracking. The person stands on the board and uses a long single-bladed paddle to navigate the water.

SUP is defined by City Code as a watercraft due to its use of a paddle. The code states, “It is prohibited for any person to ride a wind surfboard or operate any watercraft from adjoining land upon any beach in the corporate limits of Ocean City, from Friday of Memorial Day weekend to September 30 between the hours of 10 a.m. and 5:30 p.m.”