I knew when I was in Maine that I needed to find out more about why they have a surfing ban at this beach. It SUCKS, and there is absolutely zero reason for it. Additionally, I ask you- Have you ever tried to surf and slalom between splashing and unaware swimmers? I bet not. Its extremely dangerous.
I'm sinking my teeth into this issue, and I am not letting go until I get a decent explanation from the town, or until they change the ban. Knowing the people in Maine, nothing will probably change, but I am going to make my displeasure known.
Here is what I wrote to them:
To Scarborough Town Council, July 8th, 2018
I just got back from my yearly trip to Higgins Beach Inn- my families’ seventh. We always stay at the Inn because we love the proximity to the beach and we came to love the Inn itself for a multitude of reasons. It’s expensive, but we have never thought of going anywhere else. Ours is a surfing family- we surf before 11am and after 5pm because of your surfing ban between those hours. I have struggled yearly with this subject, knowing how many other communities have come to terms with this issue, and have developed simple solutions for what essentially is a very simple problem. My 14 year old son also came up with a solution so that everyone could be happy- and that should be any communities’ stated goal when possible.
I am writing this letter to you because I need to have someone tell me why the surfing ban exists. I hope someone in your town enters into a dialog with me so I can determine if I am going to return to Higgins beach anymore.
One day we dutifully got out at 11am but wanted to surf more. We drove with all our stuff to Old Orchard Beach and finally found a parking spot- not an easy task there. We then walked through a hotel parking lot to see if the waves were any good and were met by the hotel manager clutching a clipboard who asked if we were staying at their hotel. I said no and she said “well this is private property; you are not allowed to walk to the beach here.” I told her why we were there and she said it did not matter; we had to walk up the street to the next street and walk to the beach that way- took fifteen minutes. Not a very nice feeling I had in my heart as I walked away. We saw that the waves were nonexistent so then we walked back to the car and drove all the way back to Scarborough beach and saw that if we wanted to surf, I had to pay $16 for adults and $10 for kids. I pondered that for a while and was willing to pay it but I wanted to see if it was worth the money before I paid and asked the attendant if I could look first, and she said grumpily “NO!” Quite frankly, I have been surfing since 1991 and I have never in my entire experience seen any beach charge money to surf and I’ve been all over America and some of the Pacific and the Caribbean. It’s perplexing and mysterious, but I was willing to pay to have fun on vacation.
I told her that that was ridiculous, and that I was just going to turn around and leave, she didn’t seem to care in the least, a customer service representative lacking in interpersonal skills.
When I drove away, we were MAD. I do not go on vacation to get MAD. We go on vacation to get away from being MAD. It was easy for us to rub our chins and wonder why our whole car was mad. We were mad because of the surfing ban that Higgins Beach has between 11am and 5pm that forced us to go on a wild goose chase to find people who were even more unpleasant than the surfing ban. Accordingly, I believe that it is only fair for you to give us an explanation of that ban considering how many thousands of dollars I have pumped into your local economy. Every year I go there, I also buy about $1,000 worth of honey from a local vendor to sell at my store, eat at nice restaurants, and buy all sorts of stuff just like everyone else does on vacation, not to mention the cost of the inn, tips, misc meals.
We went biking until five that afternoon and when we got back in to the water to surf, the swimmers got to stay in the water with the surfers. Each and every time I caught a wave I had to jump off my surfboard prematurely to avoid colliding with the people who were innocently and merrily enjoying the really warm water and afternoon sun. The swimmers have every right in the world to continue doing what they do after five. But if you only allow surfing before 11am, and after 5pm, how do the two activities come together safely when both are allowed at the same time? It’s a dangerous situation waiting for injury and accidents and unpleasantness. It amounts to total chaos and lack of considerate and intelligent reflection, and a discrimination against a select group of people.
Because Higgins Beach has no lifeguards (in itself a perplexing scenario), if anyone did get hurt from such a collision, it would take some unreasonable amount of time for help to arrive. These are all the things going through my head that day.
One additional posted law is drinking booze on the beach the cops don’t enforce. Fine the surfers, ignore the drinkers-clearly obvious where their hearts are.
I’ve also seen uniformed officers meet hapless and unknowing surfers on the beach telling them to get out of the water. The ban is not exactly well displayed on the street. Whilst on vacation, few people stop and read the rules and regulations of the beach. People get there after driving for hours and all they want to do is physically and mentally run into the water- surfers and swimmers alike. It would be preferable for there to be a nice big “NO SURFING FROM 11AM to 5PM” sign at all entry points to the beach. That way nobody has to deal with authority figures- usually not a nice experience no matter how nice an officer is.
My son blurted out across the water to me one day “hey dad, they should just allow surfers from the rock over to the right, and swimmers to the left.” He got that idea from Narragansett town beach in Rhode Island where we have surfed for decades. They have flags delineating the two activity areas. When someone- either a swimmer or a surfer goes past the flag in the wrong direction, one can hear a loud whistle from the lifeguard- not a cop in uniform angry and ready to write a ticket (an INCREDIBLE $100-$500 fine!!!). The flags are tall and red and green, easy for everyone to understand. Surfers on the right of the flags, swimmers get the entire rest of the beach (90% swimming, 10% surfing). Personally, I felt that if the surfing area went from the main entrance street to the right would be a sufficient amount of space for us, and the swimmers get the entire rest of the beach.
There is an obvious and tangible hostility that is easy to sense when we go to Higgins beach directed against surfers that I believe is entirely avoidable and unnecessary but that is not why I am writing this letter. I am writing this letter so that I can get a reply from someone knowledgeable enough about the issue to answer this question for me:
Why is there a surfing ban at Higgins beach instead of a separation of swimming/surfing activities? I look forward to understanding this issue and thank you in advance for any time it takes for someone to write me back.
7/19/18- NO RESPONSE YET FROM ANYONE!
7/20/18- STILL NO RESPONSE!
7/21/18- STILL NO RESPONSE!
7/23/18- STILL WAITING- nothing yet
7/27/18- NO WORD YET (they must not care)
8/4/18- NO ANSWER STILL...maybe they are on vacation
8/9/18- NOBODY WROTE BACK YET
8/17/18-THEY ARE HOPING I GO AWAY!
8/18/18- TIME FOR A SECOND LETTER TO THE TOWN COUNCIL!
To Scarborough Town Council, 8/18/18
This is my second request to the Scarborough Town Council asking for an explanation of the reason for the surfing ban that exists at Higgins beach from the hours of 11am to 5pm. My last letter was mailed to you on July 8th, 2018, and as of the date on this letter, I have not yet received a reply from anyone on the Town Council nor the Town Manager, Thomas Hall. It is completely understandable because it’s vacation time and maybe your town has a recess but I did not want my letter to be forgotten.
I feel that it should be easy for the town council to delegate the job of explaining this law to not just me but also to the entire surfing community as a whole as well as to the general public. Hundreds if not thousands of people are affected by this law every year, and I feel that it is only fair for the people in power who designed this statute to explain the rationale to the public so that the unpleasantness is more palatable, and so that the non-surfing times are more easily understood. It is only because of that understanding that people like my family who spend thousands of dollars to go to Higgins beach every year, can sit on the beach for six hours waiting to surf at 5pm. Can someone PLEASE explain this surfing ban to us?
In my last letter, I asked someone from the Town of Scarborough to please answer this one question (pretty simple question):
Why is there a surfing ban from 11-5 instead of a separation of surfing/swimming activities on the beach as a whole? As I said in my last letter, when the surfers and swimmers occupy the same space in the water, it is a certainty that someone is going to get hurt, and because you have no lifeguards at that beach, I feel that this is a formula for disaster. The safest and simplest solution to the surfing problem/accident potential is not to ban surfing but to have a surfing section and a swimming section… keep the two activities separate so nobody gets hurt.
I did some research and found that as far as I can tell, Higgins beach is THE ONLY beach in America that has a surfing ban, and Scarborough Beach is THE ONLY beach in America to charge surfers a fee to surf (as well as not letting the potential customers see if the surf is any good before they pay!). If I am mistaken in this research, I’m glad to find out about it and apologize, but to the outsider, it sure seems that Scarborough Town has decided to make it as hard as possible to surf in your community, and if that is the reason for your statutes, so be it, it just needs to be verbalized as such.
I hope that someone can please contact me with a return letter explaining the policies that I outlined above, at your earliest convenience.
HEY! Just got this response. Thanks for writing back. Logic is illogical and nonsensical. Needs more dialog so we can better follow his reasoning. I find it a HUGE conflict of interest that Mr. Donovan lives at Higgins beach and has the potential to vote on Higgins Beach-related municipal issues. Maybe he is hoping that he and others can keep Higgins Beach the way THEY want it instead of thinking of the greater good.
Here is my polite but direct response to him:
Mr. Donovan had The politeness to answer. However, his reasoning is flawed. This ban needs to be overturned for a dozen reasons.
9/12/18- NO RESPONSE YET FROM MY THIRD LETTER, WONDERING IF I'M GONNA GET ONE. Ever heard of "riparian rights?' I'm wondering if Riparian rights overrides the STUPID surfing ban. I'm not sure if the town has legal rights over what activities occur in the ocean.
10/12/18- NO RESPONSE YET. Mr. Donovan and the town Council must be either done with my conversation with them, have hoped that I will go away, and (or) think that his LAME response answers all my questions to him. I think it's time for another letter, or drop the entire line of questioning and let Higgins Beach live under the dictatorial antiquated power structure that exists now and stay out of it.
Lets see who amongst these prominent and worthy individuals cares enough to touch pen to paper and reply. I’ll post everything I get back right here on this post. Kudos to those who reply.
The flags outlining swimming/surfing areas go up at nine, go down at five. Before and after that, everyone shares the beach. Hatred of surfing/surfers does not exist at all here- in fact, there is plenty of parking, surfboards on top of cars and trucks. Surfing is embraced there. After my Higgins beach fiasco, I appreciate Narragansett, Rhode Island 10,000 Times more now.
Instead of the drama at Higgins beach, I prefer to keep this video in my head, the song too. There’s plenty of other places to vacation that choose to be mature, intelligent, cohabiting communities. It’s just that we have come to love Higgins beach!
After good music swirls around in your head for a while, it’s easier to think. I’m thinking that Higgins beach is undergoing transitional growing pains- struggling to keep things the way they have always been at the same time trying to accommodate the throngs of people who don’t live there but love it equally for various reasons. The beach has its traditional “clingers,” those who want to live in the 1930’s forever and control everything and everyone who doesn’t see things their way. The town MUST rise above these people, recognize the greater needs, and EVOLVE forward. Get lifeguards. More public parking (often the sign says “LOT FULL”). Above all, find a way to END THIS CONFLICT ONCE AND FOR ALL. It’s a huge turn off for folks like me. If the fans of the 1930s want to live in a place where nobody parks, surfs, or gets dressed into wetsuits discreetly, maybe they should contemplate either greater tolerance of others or moving somewhere else where there is not such public love for all that the ocean offers.
On the way out of that beautiful place on our way home we stopped at this surf shop and thank God we did!!!
We met Crystal- a super nice earthy beautiful surf shop person. We discussed the town’s hatred of the surfers. They once tried to outlaw the act of getting into wetsuits in the parking area and on the beach. “HMMMMM, me wonders!!!” Anyone who has gone to any beach these days is exposed to more skin (happily so!) than a masseuse! What’s the problemo?
The idea was voted down, but that’s the shit this poor surfing community has to continuously endure.
link to article!-
Its altogether fitting and proper (to quote a line from Abraham Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address) to end this toxicity with a great inspiring video of the north shore’s famous young star exacting revenge on a lineup rule breaker- then goes on in the video surfing incredibly! Here is the link to the video:
Hi, my name is
David Benjamin and I started swimming in Chappaqua, NY., swam for Badger swim team, Mercersburg Academy, NC State University, then Westport YMCA masters. I got bored of the ol' back and forth of competitive swimming and the high cost of skiing. Surfing took over and I never looked back.