By Dave Schwab
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.