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'Beater Boards' Are Back: Ocean City Changes Decades-Old Law

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A boarder grabs a wave on his 'beater board' in Ocean City, Md.
Bryan Russo
A boarder grabs a wave on his 'beater board' in Ocean City, Md.

The Ocean City Council has officially changed a 40-year-old law concerning the size of body boards allowed in the resort and the seemingly small tweak to the law has made an immediate impact in the community.

Surfers are smiling in the Maryland resort city today after a well-organized backlash on social media helped convince the Ocean City Council to change a law banning body boards exceeding 42 inches in length.

"I'm pleased with the result," says Lee Gerakis, owner of Malibu's Surf Shop. "It's a great display on how the community and the city council can come together and resolve an issue that really isn't that big of an issue, but one that affected a lot of young kids and families at the beach. "

The controversy over the boards began after complains that a small group of kids were terrorizing tourists in an act known as 'tourist bowling' while riding their beater boards. 

Beater boards, which are mid size boards slightly smaller than a regular surf board but larger than a typical body board, have exploded in popularity in the past two summers. They were named for their ability to beat the system, because they were the perfect size to find the loopholes in the outdated municipal laws.

The town essentially banned the boards by enforcing the law, which had previously gone largely unenforced. Gerakis called it a "knee jerk reaction" to the complaints.

The council quickly backtracked, however, after realizing the widespread impacts on the entire surfing community. Boards as long as 54 inches will now be allowed on the city's non-surfing beaches, but professional body boarder and Ocean City native Brian Stoehr says the law is good for public safety too.

"It's not really the size of the board, but the behavior of the person in the water," Stoehr says. "And this gives the beach patrol the ability to ensure that people are behaving correctly."

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