A decade-long ban on surfing at Hallandale Beach, just north of Miami on Florida’s Atlantic Coast, may soon be struck down for breaking with legal precedent that contends Florida municipalities cannot institute blanket bans of the sport, a local paper reports.
Legal experts that argue the ban is unlawful point to previous attempts to outlaw surfing along Florida’s coast. In 1964, the city of Palm Beach outlawed using surfboards, “or a device known as a skimmer” along the entirety of its 13-mile coastline. Several beach towns followed suit. But, in 1970 the Florida Supreme Court struck those laws down.
In the landmark ruling from 48 years ago, the Florida Supreme Court explained:
“The ordinance in question in its ultimate effect is a prohibitory one in scope in that it does not endeavor to regulate surfing but prohibits it. There does not appear to be anything inherently obnoxious or illegal, per se, about surfing that requires or necessitates it being totally prohibited anymore than it would be reasonable to prohibit fishing entirely along the shore of the ocean within the Town. On the contrary, it would appear that surfing is a relatively challenging and wholesome activity for young people and others so inclined to pursue and to develop their skills in timing, balance, and coordination. The Town’s attempt to prohibit this activity absolutely within its wide expanse of thirteen (13) miles of beachfront in this County cannot be sustained as a lawful exercise of the police power.”
It’s that precise legal precedent that has experts saying Hallandale’s ban should be abolished.
“A city can ban surfing in an area where it might be dangerous because of rocks or ships coming out or where they might be colliding with swimmers,” Bob Jarvis, a law professor at Nova Southeastern University, told the Sun Sentinel. “But you can’t do a blanket ban.”
Hallandale Vice Mayor Sabrina Javellana told the media outlet she was previously unaware of the ruling. “That changes everything,” she said.
Despite the ban being officially on the books, no surfer has been cited for violating it.
Fire Chief Mark Ellis said that lifeguards’ primary concern in the region is safety and that they’ve been relatively laid back in their enforcement of the ban. “It’s more of a live and let live approach,” he said.
The approach is so laid back, in fact, that many local residents are apparently unaware of the ban.
Still, some local officials say it’s time to revisit the law. According to the same Sun Sentinel report, City Attorney Jennifer Merino is working on a revised law that could be voted on next month.