Swimmers concerned about La Jolla WaveRunner tours

By Dave Schwab
Staff Writer

Swimmers fear choppy waters ahead should a Mission Bay boat rental company follow through on WaveRunner tours it’s promoting along La Jolla’s coastline.

It was announced at La Jolla Shores Association’s monthly meeting last week that Seaforth Boat Rentals in Mission Bay has begun advertising two-hour WaveRunner tours of the La Jolla Coast Fridays through Sundays departing at 8 a.m. for a $149 charge. On top of that, on March 8, the company advertised a half-price deal through Groupon.

The immediate reaction of swimmers at La Jolla Cove was consternation even though the company’s owner says they should not be concerned.

“We ocean swimmers are extremely distraught that the city would issue a permit to allow the operation of ‘high-speed’ wave runners in or near the La Jolla Reserve,” e-mailed Kathleen Simmons. “WaveRunners, or any other high-speed motor craft, have absolutely no business being in a reserve where human life and marine life will undoubtedly be impacted in a very real way.”

“I enjoy WaveRunners myself … but we have long-distance training swims out to the buoys a pretty good distance offshore,” said Paula Selby of La Jolla Cove Swim Club. “How close are those WaveRunners going to shore, to the ecology reserve?”

“I don’t want to swim through a cloud of exhaust fumes if they cross my path,” e-mailed another swimmer. “I don’t trust my life to some Jet Ski tour operator to watch what their renters do.”

“There’s a potential huge liability issue if someone gets hurt,” noted fellow swimmer Steven Coopersmith.

But Andy Kurtz, owner of Seaforth Boat Rentals, said fears about his jet ski tours are unfounded.

“I assure you, we are going nowhere near swimmers,” he said. “The law is 1,000 feet. We’re going to be no less than half a mile from the beach.”

Kurtz said tours would leave Mission Bay and go outside the kelp and around the corner to see La Jolla Beach & Tennis Club and the Cove before returning.

He contends small-group tours are “far less invasive than the kayaks and boats that are there now.”

Kurtz said his intention is to start out slowly in terms of tour numbers, but added tours will likely ramp up with demand and might be done daily in summer.

He said the five or six vehicles involved in his group tours are “a dot” compared to traffic already out there.

San Diego Lifeguard Lt. Nick Lerma said personal watercraft like Jet Skis and WaveRunners can go anywhere boats are allowed. He noted, however, there is a “no boat” zone in La Jolla.
“It’s off the Cove where the swim course is,” he said.

Lerma said no craft of any kind can come within 1,000 feet of the shoreline and added there’s another restriction. “They are not allowed to go more than 5 mph in order to slow down traffic in the area where swimmers or divers might be close to shore,” he said.

Will Newbern, speaking for long-distance swimmers who typically swim out along the buoy line or beyond a mile or more from shore. said, “My biggest fear when I’m out swimming is the boats and jet skis.”

“We’re blessed with an environment where we can swim offshore where the lifeguards support us and don’t have to call us back because of uncontrolled boat traffic,” he said.

Newbern added swimmers have already been displaced from Children’s Pool by seals and are being crowded by sea lions at the Cove.

“If we’re going to have to fight Jet Skis (too), it’s really going to be a shame,” he added.

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Short URL: http://www.lajollalight.com/?p=37146

Posted by Dave Schwab on Mar 16, 2011. Filed under Featured Story, La Jolla, News. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. You can leave a response or trackback to this entry

7 Comments for “Swimmers concerned about La Jolla WaveRunner tours”

  1. Sean

    Obviously Seaforth knows a thing about water safety, since they operate SCUBA tour-boats — dive boards I've been out on. However, what it sounds like the public, Seaforth and Ms. Simmons might not understand is that there is a significant number of swimmers – hundreds per day — out there int he Ecological reserve every day, swimming between the cove, Shores, Marine room, and points outside the no-boat zone — out to the "B," "C" and other ecological reserve Buoys, the end of the pier, and between the B-buoy and shores. These routes are very invisible to the un-trained mariner. This will be terribly dangerous on wind-choppy days, and add in a few feet of wave swell, in which swimmers disappear in the wave trough's and can be very hard to see. What's worse, is that in these swim routes described, the mentioned 5MPH limits do not apply. In other words, this is a very bad idea, and death waiting to happen. Open ocean swimmers are not going to abandon ancient routes, and the high-speed jet-skis will be killing swimmers left and right. As the sun gets low in the West and makes glare on the water, even kayakers are vulnerable to being lost in the glare run over. I personally know of an incident where this has happened in the mission bay jetty entrance. I also recall an incident where a spear-fisherman with a red dive buoy was run-over off Windandsea just a couple years ago.

    • Dana Joseph

      Read it again Sean. Miss Simmons understands perfectly! She is one of those hundreds of swimmers who will be in danger.

      • Sean

        Oh. duh. I definitely misread that. I thought Simmons was the Seaforth spokeswoman. Sorry! The rest of my comment stands.

  2. Dana Joseph

    As a avid cove swimmer who swims almost daily, I am deeply concerned about my safety on the water. On a choppy day, we are very hard to see out there. I'd trust swimming with a shark over a novice jet skier any day.

  3. There are always people coming into the area where swimmers are, and the life guards have to make them leave. people on jet skis using that area as a sight seeing tour don't care about the boat rules. they are told a 1000 ft of shore, most people can't judge 100 feet little on a thousand, this is a bad Idea and it will come to pass that some body is killed because a jet skier is stupid. Mark these words. speed boats and swimmers don't mix well.

  4. npk32

    There should be a separate section of the Light called "What Swimmers are Bitching About Today."

  5. Vanessa H

    I too am a regular swimmer, you you really think the sea lions and dolphins are going to just come up to these jet skis. That's sure what those tourists will be chasing after and yes they might just run over us chasing them. Yes there are kayaks out there, the guides know where we swim and will stop the group when they see us. How are we to know that jet ski operators will diligently watch these people. It's a bad idea and I hope these tours fail.

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