A new proposal from the Michigan Parks and Recreation Division would prevent swimming at state beaches on “Red Flag” days, or essentially, the only days with rideable surf out on the Lakes.

Surfing in Michigan is hard.

A lot harder than renting a wetsuit and foamie on the boardwalk in Southern California.

A requisite perfect combination of an endless array of variables to do anything resembling sliding.

And more often than not you’re on the wrong side of the lake.

But the Great Lakes can produce magical, albeit fleeting, moments. Chest-high wedges with twenty-knot winds. Offshore runners. Facial hair freezing to your face.

Those moments may become even more fleeting.

A new proposal from the Michigan Parks and Recreation Division would prevent swimming at state beaches on “Red Flag” days, or essentially, the only days with rideable surf out on the Lakes.

The proposal would prevent “individuals from exiting a state managed beach area when entry is prohibited.”

The punishment would likely carry a fine of $500.

Per the Great Lakes Surf Rescue Project, there were 108 drownings on the Great Lakes last year.

According to Ron Olson, Chief of Parks and Recreation for the Department of Natural Resources, “We think it’s a good tool to have for us to draw a hard line to reduce the potential hazard. When it gets to red we know that the waves are going to be three-to-four-plus in height and the winds are blowing at a certain amount which means it becomes more treacherous.”

Surfers are particularly concerned about the proposal.

Ryan Gerard, a local surf shop owner in Michigan, said “This ban would effectively erase the opportunity [to surf] for all . . . people, including me.”

Coastal access is tricky in Michigan. Most of the coastline is privately owned, only thirty percent is public according to a report published by Coastal Management.

Other groups have similarly expressed concern about the proposal.

The Michigan United Conservation Clubs fear the proposal could “lead to a slippery slope.” They also point out that many of the drownings would not have been prevented by the policy; most were boating accidents and instances when individuals were swept off piers and beaches.

It’s also important to note that most of the year the Lakes are too cold to swim in, let alone wade, without a (thick) wetsuit.

While well intended, the proposal is the product of overzealous bureaucrats who fundamentally do not understand how to address the issue.

Like using an axe to open an envelope.



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