This screenshot taken from a video shot by surf instructor Shannon Brown shows a watercraft operator in the surf zone off Chesterman Beach. Since being shared on social media, the video has sparked concerns over water safety. (Image from video by Shannon Brown)

Tofino beachgoers ‘horrified’ by Sea-Doos, Jet Skis, in surf zone

“I was quite distressed to see it.”

A Tofino resident and former municipal councillor is questioning whether personal watercrafts should be allowed to share the same waves as swimmers and surfers at local beaches.

Cathy Thicke recently shared a video on social media that shows at least two Sea-Doo or Jet Ski operators riding waves close to shore and near surfers at Chesterman Beach.

Thicke told the Westerly News that the video was shot by her son in law and local surf instructor Shannon Brown and she posted it online to see whether her safety concerns would be shared by others.

“I was quite distressed to see it…People on soft tops who were learning and young kids were less than 50 metres away. So, I thought, that doesn’t look right, that doesn’t look good, that doesn’t look safe, what should we be doing about that on our beaches?” she said. “I thought that if I feel horrified looking at this, I wonder if other people feel the same and, if that is the case, then we should do something as a municipality towards sorting that out.”

The video quickly gained traction and garnered nearly 100 comments, the vast majority of which expressed discomfort and distress about the safety of those near the watercrafts.

Tofino mayor Josie Osborne told the Westerly news via email that the town’s local government does not regulate ocean activities as that falls under federal jurisdiction and that Tofino’s council would not be considering any new bylaws stemming from the concerns sparked by the video.

“We do take issues like this very seriously though—as should everyone—because clearly, motorized vessels and surfers cannot use the surf zone at the same time,” she said. “I understand that people often want Council or District staff to know about poor behaviour, and feedback from residents is useful to inform our decision-making on municipal matters like beach fires, noise, and how to fund and deploy bylaw enforcement resources. It’s also helpful feedback for communications and messaging that’s undertaken by the District and agencies like Tourism Tofino. The truth is that the vast majority of feedback we hear really boils down to one simple thing: a lack of respectful and courteous behaviour. I think we’d all like to see more of that at times, right?”

Nearby beaches within the Pacific Rim National Park Reserve, like Cox Bay, Long Beach and Wickaninnish Beach prohibit all powered personal watercrafts within 750 metres of the high water mark.

The rules in Tofino are less clear, with no bylaws in place regulating ocean activities, though the district’s Public Property Use Regulation Bylaw prohibits “launch[ing] any motorized vessel from any public beach unless by means of a facility provided for such a purpose,” and also bans “any loud, objectionable or unnecessary noise from a motor vehicle or vessel.”

Sgt. Todd Pebernat of the Tofino RCMP told the Westerly that the watercrafts at Chesterman were not investigated because police “only became aware after the incident.”

Osborne urges residents to reach out to the RCMP when they see any unsafe activities.

“In this case, the RCMP would have been contacted and could have quickly taken action to identify the [watercraft] operators and follow up much faster than what ended up occurring,” she said.

“To reiterate: whether you see dangerous driving on a Tofino road, a huge bonfire on the beach, dangerous boating, helicopters landing on crowded beaches, or any other unsafe activity, call 911. It only takes seconds.”

She added that if a report about dangerous activity turns out to be a municipal bylaw matter, police will reach out to the district office.

“There is a close working relationship between RCMP and District of Tofino’s bylaw department,” she said.

Thicke suggested beaches in other municipalities have regulations around motorized vessels and she hopes the community can collaborate on a set of rules governing local shores, adding that Tourism Tofino could then help educate visitors on what’s expected of them when they’re enjoying the ocean.

“I pressed the council to take some leadership on that. Nobody seemed to be clear on whether it was OK or wasn’t OK,” she said. “You’ve got people in the surf zone with young kids there, so that to me was a bit of a problem.”

She added the recent incident was the first time she’d ever seen watercrafts in the surf zone.

“I’d just like to see safe use of Sea-Doos within Clayoquot Sound,” she said. “Some uses are good and fun but, when you get in the surf zone in proximity to people who are swimming or surfing, that’s clearly a very dangerous situation.”

She added clarity is needed on what the rules are quickly because local beaches are beginning to fill up as the provincial government eases travel restrictions put in place due to the coronavirus pandemic.

“I don’t want to hear about an accident involving a young child who was completely defenceless in a situation because somebody else wants to have some fun, that’s not OK,” she said.

The Westerly News reached out to the Department of Fisheries and Oceans Canada for clarification on who is responsible for regulating personal watercrafts in surf zones, but did not hear back by presstime.



andrew.bailey@westerlynews.ca

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter

READ MORE: Transport Canada investigating after helicopter lands on Tofino Beach

READ MORE: Tourist claims Tofino’s beaches have ‘gone to the dogs’

READ MORE: Tofino woman beseeches town for nude beach

beachesRecreationsurfingTofino,

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

A photo of the missing mushroom pickers from the Lil’Wat Nation near Pemberton: River Leo (left) and dad Peter Oleski. Facebook photo/Sea to Sky Road Conditions page
Two Comox Valley-based search organizations assisting in missing Pemberton mushroom pickers

Two members from the Lil’Wat Nation were last seen Oct. 22

Students at Ecole Puntledge Park Elementary kicked off the Everybody Deserves A Smile (EDAS) campaign in 2019. Scott Stanfield photo
Everybody Deserves a Smile campaign adapts to COVID-19 challenges

“We didn’t want to lose our heartfelt hands-on approach.”

Wind and waves were part of the reason why the Sail Canada High Performance Team selected HMCS Quadra as the winter training base for Tokyo 2021. Photo by Ken Dool
National sailing team prepares for Olympics at HMCS Quadra in Comox

HMCS Quadra is serving as the winter training base for the Canadian… Continue reading

Courtenay residents will have a substantial schedule change for curbside trash collection beginning in January 2021. (Ben Lypka/Black Press file)
Courtenay moving to a zone system for curbside trash collection

New system means collection days will change with every statutory holiday

A jubilant Ronna-Rae Leonard salutes the crowd at her victory party at the Avalanche Bar & Grill. (photo by Scott Stanfield)
UPDATE: Leonard declared early winner for Courtenay-Comox

NDP incumbent held similar margin of lead throughout the evening

FILE – Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry provides the latest update on the COVID-19 pandemic in the province during a press conference in the press theatre at Legislature in Victoria, B.C., on Thursday, October 22, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chad Hipolito
B.C. shatters COVID-19 records with 817 weekend cases; masks now expected indoors

Three people have died over the past three reporting periods

Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good

Pay it Forward program supports local businesses in their community giving

RCMP have released more details regarding what led up to an arrest caught on video in Williams Lake Sunday, Oct. 26. (Facebook video screenshot)
Review launched after ‘high-risk, multi-jurisdictional’ chase, arrest in Williams Lake

RCMP launching a full review and code of conduct investigation

Freighter drags anchor towards Boulder Point Oct. 22. It came within 730 metres of the shore, according to maps from the Port of Nanaimo. (Photo submitted)
MacGregor introduces bill to address freighter anchorages along the South Coast

Concerns about the environment, noise, pollution and safety abundant

(Pxfuel)
B.C. limits events in private homes to household, plus ‘safe six’ amid COVID-19 surge

Henry issued a public health order limiting private gatherings to one household, plus a group of ‘safe six’ only

B.C. Liberal Leader Andrew Wilkinson speaks during a drive-in car rally campaign stop at a tour bus operator, in Delta, Saturday, Oct. 17, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
Andrew Wilkinson stepping down as B.C. Liberal leader

Will stay on until the next party leader is chosen

Harvesters participating in the extended commercial halibut season will need to land their catch in either Prince Rupert (pictured), Vancouver, or Port Hardy by Dec. 14. (File photo)
B.C.’s commercial halibut season extended three weeks

COVID-19 market disruptions at the root of DFO’s decision

Campbell River's new hospital, July 2018
Nurse diverts opiates and falsifies records at Campbell River Hospital

Nurse facing disciplinary action for moving opiates out of the hospital

Most Read