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)

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,

Just Posted

Ocean Wise’s cetacean photogrammetry research program uses aerial images collected by boat-launched drones to measure the body condition of whales. (Ocean Wise Marine Mammal License MML-18 photo)
LNG Canada commits $750K to whale research, conservation initiative

Ocean Wise education team will work alongside educational and Indigenous leaders in the area

The Sam Lindsay Aquatic Centre will be closed from June 28 until September 13 for annual facility maintenance as well as teach pool and decking repairs. (Black Press photo)
Sam Lindsay Aquatic Centre closed: June 28 – September 13

The aquatic centre will be closed for annual facility maintenance

Shoes are being left at the viewpoint on Haisla Blvd in response to the 215 bodies discovered at the Kamloops Residential School. (Jacob Lubberts photo)
Haisla Nation responds to 215 Indigenous children found buried at the site of Kamloops Indian Residential School

“Many Haisla children were sent far away, to places such as Port Alberni, and to Coqualeetza”

Susan Jay hosted a plant and garage sale on May 25 and donated all of her proceeds to the Kitimat General Hospital Foundation to help with the purchase of a new bus for residents at Mountain View Lodge, Delta King and the new Kitimat Valley Housing Society dementia home. (Barbara Campbell photo)
KGHF thanks Susan Jay for her help to purchase a new bus for seniors in multi-level care

Susan donated all proceeds to KGHF, her efforts netted the hospital foundation a total of $1,760

An example of what a mural would look like on the back wall on Ron’s Bait and Tackle Store which faces the courtyard and sidewall. The mural photos shown here are mock-ups of existing artwork on walls of interest in the downtown core to build anticipation within the community about the concept of murals. The KPAA will not necessarily be using these locations or this artwork for the actual murals. (KPAA photo)
Kitimat Public Art Alliance mural funding request denied

D’Andrea suggested she will come back to the council at a later date with a more concrete plan

The border crossing on Highway 11 in Abbotsford heading south (file)
VIDEO: Western premiers call for clarity, timelines on international travel, reopening rules

Trudeau has called Thursday meeting, premiers say they expect to leave that meeting with a plan

St. Joseph's Mission site is located about six kilometres from Williams Lake First Nation. (Photo submitted)
Williams Lake First Nation to search residential school site for unmarked graves

St. Joseph’s Mission Indian Residential School operated from 1886 to 1981

Tuesday’s Lotto Max draw went unclaimed. (Photo courtesy of BCLC)
Tuesday’s Lotto Max draw went unclaimed. (Photo courtesy of BCLC)
Lotto Max jackpot goes unclaimed again

42 of the 64 Maxmillion prizes of $1 million were won, the majority were sold in Ontario

FILE - This July 6, 2017 file photo shows prescription drugs in a glass flask at the state crime lab in Taylorsville, Utah. (AP Photo/Rick Bowmer, File)
Contaminants in generic drugs may cause long-term harm to DNA: B.C. researcher

Scientist says findings suggest high volume overseas facilities require strict regulation

Restaurant patrons enjoy the weather on a patio in Vancouver, B.C., on April 5, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
Labour shortages, closed borders major obstacles to B.C. restaurant, tourism restarts

Industry expert says it won’t start to recover until international travellers can visit

(Black Press Media file)
Dirty money: Canadian currency the most germ-filled in the world, survey suggests

Canadian plastic currency was found to contain 209 bacterial cultures

(pixabay file shot)
B.C. ombudsperson labels youth confinement in jail ‘unsafe,’ calls for changes

Review states a maximum of 22 hours for youth, aged 12 from to 17, to be placed in solitary

Eleonore Alamillo-Laberge, 6, reads a book in Ottawa on Monday, June 12, 2017. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
Parents will need to fight ‘COVID learning slump’ over summer: B.C. literacy experts

Parents who play an active role in educating their children this summer can reverse the slump by nearly 80%, says Janet Mort

Most Read