Surfers start petition against ocean ban after arrests

Two surfers enjoy the waves at Bogue Inlet Fishing Pier in Emerald Isle in this undated photo. The photo accompanies a petition that calls on Bogue Banks mayors to repeal the ban on surfing in the ocean enacted in the wake of the novel coronavirus outbreak. (Contributed photo)

BOGUE BANKS —Surfers have started a petition to push Emerald Isle and other towns on Bogue Banks to repeal what they call a “discriminatory recreational water access restriction” against their sport.

Lockwood talks to Doug Starcke & David Taylor about surfing restrictions in Emerald Isle during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The petition, posted on an Emerald Isle community Facebook page, states that Gov. Roy Cooper’s March 27 stay-at-home order “allows citizens to enjoy the outdoors and to get exercise and does not restrict access to the State’s Public Trust Waters or use of the recreational waters of the State” during the novel coronavirus pandemic.

Doug Starcke, an Emerald Isle surfer and co-owner of South Swell Surf Shop, said Wednesday the petition was launched by another Emerald Isle surfer, Eric Berger.

Mr. Starcke, who has argued against the ocean ban, which applies to non-motorized water recreation, said supporters “plan to analyze the petition to see how many of the signers are from Bogue Banks, and how many are from each town on Bogue Banks” before presenting it to officials in the towns.

As of 3:30 p.m. Wednesday, the petition, Carteret County Surf Now, had 3,250 signatures.

Mr. Starcke said the petition, launched about 7 p.m. Tuesday, was in reaction to the arrest of three surfers that day in Emerald Isle.

Town police arrested the three after an incident in which Police Chief Tony Reese said they would not leave the water after being told repeatedly to do so by officers over a period of nearly an hour.

Chief Reese said Peyton Weist, 21, of Emerald Isle; Parker Bell, 26, of Emerald Isle; and Ian Schulte, 21, of Swansboro, were cited for violating the temporary ocean prohibition against swimmers, surfers and others not on motorized vehicles. The ban is also in effect in Atlantic Beach, Indian Beach and Pine Knoll Shores.

“Both Mr. Weist and Mr. Schulte had previously been issued warnings by my officers prior to (Tuesday),” Chief Reese said in an email to the News-Times. “This was Mr. Bell’s first offense.

“I want to make it clear that the arrest of these young men was for resisting, obstructing and delaying a law enforcement officer and not for the surfing violation,” the chief added. “As a result of their actions, (U.S.) Coast Guard resources were requested and a drone had to be deployed in order to gain compliance and get these young men to exit the water. Had they complied with the numerous requests of the officers at the scene … this whole situation could have been avoided.”

Chief Reese said the town has had a good relationship with surfers and values their presence in the community.

“This is an isolated incident that I sincerely hope will not define the relationship that the police department has with the surfing community,” he wrote. “Surfers are an extraordinary group of people who are an extremely important asset to this community, our first responders and our visitors.”

He noted that surfers save countless lives on beaches each year, often without recognition, aiding first responders and helping to ensure public safety.

“I want the surfing community to know that this is not a sign of things to come, nor is it going to be the norm when double-red flags are flown in Emerald Isle,” the chief concluded.

Usually, double-red flags fly to prohibit swimming because of dangerous rip currents or other hazardous ocean conditions, but surfers are exempted from adhering to them in Emerald Isle.

Chief Reese called on surfers to sacrifice during the coronavirus restrictions and work with the town to “preserve the safety of the public and to restore our way of life.”  

Double-red flags are flying now because the Bogue Banks mayors, in a teleconference April 2, prohibited anyone who is not on a motorized vehicle from entering the ocean through Thursday, April 30.

The concept, according to Emerald Isle Town Manager Matt Zapp, was to reduce the demand on first responders and discourage tourist travel to the Crystal Coast during Gov. Cooper’s stay-at-home order.

On the day of the conference, Emerald Isle Mayor Eddie Barber said the town already had one ocean rescue, on March 29.

Mr. Zapp said he received a phone call Wednesday from that person, a resident who had been kitesurfing. He said that subject clarified he was not in distress at the time of the water rescue call, but an onlooker saw him making his way to shore and dialed 911.

The surfers’ petition states there is little demand for first responders for surfers and there is more demand for response to accidents by others, such as bicyclists, joggers, skate boarders and fishermen.


Contact Brad Rich at 252-864-1532; email; or follow on Twitter @brichccnt.

(13) comments

Core Sounder

sad that the cops along bogue banks have not anything better to do than aggravate a bunch of surfer out getting some exercise.


PAY TO SURF! That's what they are after in the end, i suspect. Noone has fun in UTOPIAVILLE, its simply a mirage to get you to join! Thanks for playing , and here's your nice citation to pay! (although, those are NICE WAVES, which are rare round these parts!) [alien]


The New Abnormal [ ]


Resist, obstruct, delay: A catchall they use when nothing else will. It is a horse dung charge.


Now we all understand the concept. However how far is to far. their has to be a line. Surfing is a money maker in the county, & state.

Mr. Tom Slick

…… this is as bad as being a Democrat.... Who are these officers...? Come on guys give it a break....




They called on the coast guard & a drone! [rolleyes].. A DRONE! For 3 surfers! I'm surprised they didn't taz em, when finally coming outta the water! [lol] Come on, this rule screams of discrimination.. let the people surf! Someone making a 911 call, apparently for no reason.. Sounds a bit fishy to me, or someone's just really bored, minding everyone else's business! I do think, I'd be able to tell, the difference in someone who's in distress, or a person who's coming ashore, possibly in ruff waters, but, then again, I've been around the water & participated in many water sports, my whole life. I'd be willing to bet it was a tourist, that made that 911 call or a lil old lady/man, that can't see very well, or someone that rarely see's water sports! [unsure]

Core Sounder

Cant think of a better way to get away from folks than being on the water plus getting a little exercise . Some of our so called leaders need to use a little more common sense when they come up with some of their emergency rules and this is a perfect example


Those 3 surfers were being selfish out there all alone. With 10 of millions of people possibly of dying from this virus, the surfers might bring in another virus that fell off of a ship.

Yo Lo

I did NOT KNOW that a virus can Fall Off Of A Ship. I didn't KNOW that virus can SWIM. Ten Million people are reported to possibly contract the Virus ???? WOW.

Better watch that Water !!


So all of you are saying surfers don't have to follow the rules the rest of the people do? I love to surfish,my feet touch the same part of sand that surfers do. I also consider it exercise and spend money there. So you think it's ok to make an exception for surfers??? I don't. Rules are for everyone.


I posted a comment but like the 3 surfers are special, I am not so my comment wasn't posted.

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