Cape Cod Surfing Continues

WELLFLEET — Against the backdrop of a shark attack on a swimmer in Truro last summer and a second, fatal attack on a boogie boarder in Wellfleet, the first such fatality in the state in more than 80 years, Orleans selectmen voted in November not to allow surf lessons at Nauset Beach. Conducted by private companies, these surf lessons have become an increasingly popular summertime activity for visitors and a financial boon to locals.

Nauset Beach, which is relatively close to the largest gray seal colony in the country, registered one of the highest number of detections of tagged sharks off Cape beaches last summer. While the Eastham, Wellfleet and Truro beaches also saw a relatively high number of shark detections, the Wellfleet Select Board and Cape Cod National Seashore have decided to allow surf schools to operate on their beaches this summer.

"I would like to see them continue because I think they are a valuable offering for the people who come here," Wellfleet Beach Administrator Suzanne Grout Thomas said. Given what happened last summer, Thomas brought the issue of surf schools before the board at its meeting last week to see if anyone had reservations about allowing surf schools to continue operating on town beaches. Approximately a half-dozen schools used town and Cape Cod National Seashore beaches last summer to give lessons to everyone from schoolchildren to adults.

Select Board member Kathleen Bacon agreed the practice should continue this year, but remained cautious.

"We're going to have to take this one year at a time," she said.

Seashore park Chief Ranger Leslie Reynolds said her department already has issued the required commercial use authorization permit to Sacred Surf School and anticipated there were other applications whose processing was delayed by the government shutdown this winter.

"The National Seashore will independently review each application. We'll be more likely than not to approve," Reynolds said. "At this point, we see no reason not to issue the permits."

While the Wellfleet board discussed changes to its permit requirements, including possibly doubling the $1 million in liability coverage it requires the schools to carry and stipulating that the schools' clients watch a video on shark danger and safety, Reynolds said she anticipates no significant changes to the National Seashore policy.

This is a win for small business and individual decision-making. The environment and nature pose all kinds of dangers and it’s up to individuals to engage in certain activities if they choose. Surfing and water sports are a big part of Cape Cod’s culture and should always be enjoyed seriously and safely. Wishing everyone around the water a great season!