Southampton surfers will have more places to catch a wave after the village board on Tuesday took steps to wipe out a decades-old law limiting their sport.
Village code, in a portion adopted in 1977, banned surfing at beaches between Halsey Neck Lane and Old Town Road and near Fowler Lane, from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. starting June 15 and ending Sept 15. Offenders faced possible fines of up to $1,000.
A Change.org petition calling for the law’s repeal had amassed more than 7,500 online signatures as of Tuesday night. On Sunday, more than 100 supporters took to Agawam Beach for a “surf in” to protest the code, which they said had recently begun being enforced.
“Many of us surfers were told by the police that they would tell us to get out of the ocean and give us tickets if we went in,” read the petition which was posted online Saturday. “This understandably caused disruptions and concern among those of us who love the sport.”
The board voted 5-0 Tuesday to allow surfing in the previously restricted areas, except at the village's popular Coopers Beach. A public hearing is set for Sept. 24 to remove that portion from the code. The board also voted to create a committee to advise on the matter.
Southampton Village Mayor Jesse Warren said the issue was raised after a resident called police and asked that authorities descend on village beaches to enforce the code.
“We are obviously going to start the process in changing that law,” said Warren, who also surfs. “There is a long-standing surfing culture, and we have amazing beaches. It’s a great sport for everybody.”
Surfers went to the beach on Sunday in a show of solidarity and were assured by the mayor that the code would not be enforced.
“At first when I heard the news, I didn’t believe it. How can they ban surfing? How can they keep us out of the water?” said Lindsey Levin, 29, of Hamptons Bays, a surfer who attended the event. “Most surfers that I know are the most kind and peaceful people.”
Still, some resident surfers hope the village will ensure surfing schools and camps don't interfere with recreational surfers.
"I'm all about safety. I'm all about surfing," longtime surfer Francis Adamczeski said during Tuesday's board meeting. "But we need to regulate the commercial use of our beaches."