Marine Safety Correspondance

Fuming Over Paddling Prohibition


This letter was addressed to lifeguard chief Kevin Snow.


Today I went down to Boat Canyon to go for a paddle on my paddle board. This is the same routine I have done a couple days a week for years.  To my extreme surprise, the lifeguard on duty informed me that there was a ban on all paddleboards except in surf areas for all of Laguna. Wow. All this was told to me as a kayak leisurely paddled into the cove as I guess kayaks are okay.

What possible logic do you have in not allowing people who live in the area to not put their paddleboard in the water at Boat Canyon?  There was no one on the beach or in the water at Boat Canyon.  I can tell you that I felt like quite the idiot standing there being told I was not allowed to enter the water with my paddleboard. The lifeguard at my request even called your dispatcher, Mike Dick, to ask for an exception and the answer was, “No.”

We live in Laguna because we love the ocean and want to use it.

I am now very fearful for my kids to surf at the surf breaks if by your new rule you are going to send out all these beginner paddlers into surf areas with probably no leashes on those heavy boards. Have you thought this through?

Please tell me under what possible power have you made this rule? How have you informed the public? When and where did a public discussion take place? Where have you posted it so that people are aware of the new rule? What considerations have you made for areas that are traditional launch areas for kayaks and paddleboards?  What possible good reason is there for prohibiting paddleboards at a cove like Boat Canyon? (I can understand Main Beach, but Boa Canyon?) If the concern is tour groups, I believe there are already rules in place.

I checked the Laguna Beach website and there is nothing noted about your new rule.

I have copied in the local papers as I am sure their readers will be interested in your response.

Thank you, I look forward to hearing from you very soon.


Mike Levine


Chief Responds

Thank you for contacting the Marine Safety Department about your discussion regarding paddleboarding.

I apologize if there were any miscommunications on the part of a Marine Safety staff member.

Due to large surf, hard objects including kayaks, stand up paddleboards and any other hard boat type craft were not permitted to launch from the city’s swimming beaches due to safety concerns.

When ocean conditions are considered dangerous … with a hard object such activities are prohibited.  In such conditions the potential for boards or other hard objects to become separated from the operator is much higher. Additionally the potential force that an object can strike a swimmer with also increases with the size and power of the surf propelling such an object.

On Saturday the decision to prohibit hard objects from traversing swimming areas is directly related to public safety. The exception mentioned by the lifeguard at Boat Canyon is for stand up paddleboard surfing, which is allowed in designated surfing areas.

Surf and weather conditions including warnings and restrictions are available on the department’s daily ocean and weather observation recording at 949-494-6573.

No new Municipal Code has been recently added relating to this subject. The responsibility of imposing restrictions on activities is not taken lightly, nor is it undertaken without careful consideration. This responsibility is an important component to maintaining a safe enjoyable beach environment for resident and visitors alike.

In an effort to investigate this matter further, it would be helpful for me to discuss this with you.  The intent of the Marine Safety Department is for the public to have a safe and enjoyable day at the beach, certainly not to cause frustration.

Portions of the city Municipal Code relating to the use of hard object and or vessels as they relate to designated swimming areas, are below:

No person shall use any surfboard, paddleboard, skid-board, ski, canoe, or other similar object made entirely or partially of wood, metal, glass, hard plastic or any other hard substance, at any time in the Pacific Ocean within the city limits in a manner that constitutes a hazard to any other person. (1953 Code § 7445; Ord. 465 (part); Ord. 591 § 2). 18.21.030 Hazardous skin diving and scuba diving—Discontinuance orders authorized.


Kevin Snow

Marine Safety Chief


… Some Backpedaling

Thank you for your prompt response below and our phone conversation today.

In summary there is no change in rules and the purpose of keeping paddleboards (and kayaks) out of Boat Canyon and other swim designated beaches was due to the heavy swells we have had over the past few days, which is perfectly reasonable.

I appreciate your concern about the wrong message being communicated to me at the beach and was glad to hear that you have already put in place some corrective action.


Mike Levine



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