A few days ago, a Puerto Rican politician proposed something ridiculous: a ban on surfing–and other watersports–to stop people from drowning. Thankfully, news broke today that it wasn’t going to fly.
The ban, proposed by Carlos “Johnny” Méndez a Puerto Rican politician wasn’t all about saving lives, though. The drownings often came with lawsuits, which are bad for business. One in particular: a massive resort called the Christopher Columbus Landing, a massive project that would have 300 rooms, a casino, and apartments. With any luck, it will bring in much-needed tourist dollars to the area, but the resort’s construction hasn’t been smooth. Protestors are upset for a variety of reasons, and they’re getting arrested for it. “People can’t protest any kind of construction that’s killing plants and animals and reefs right in front of their eyes,” Puerto Rican pro surfer Gaby Escudero told Surfline. “It’s become sort of like a dictatorship, violating everything we care about, and it’s beyond political. La Junta de Supervisión Fiscal is giving all these permits away, stepping over our natural resources like they’re nothing, even in areas that are supposed to be protected by the federal government, because they just want the money to come in. Basically, every little corner in Puerto Rico that has open space, they want it, and nobody can even say anything about it. We’re fighting it, but we might all end up going to jail for doing so.”
Had the ban been successful, local authorities could arrest anyone in the water if they deemed the weather conditions to be too dangerous. That means, of course, that when the waves are big, no one’s allowed in the water. Puerto Rico has a thriving surfing community, and a good chunk of their tourism cash comes from surfers, so when Méndez brought the idea to the table, it wasn’t exactly well-received.
“Apparently people who are making decisions in Puerto Rico are crazy,” said a local surfer, Alejandro Moreda, to El Nuevo Dia. “When I heard this news, I thought it was a joke. They are not taking into consideration that 25% of tourism in Puerto Rico is made by surfers. We surfers live for that intensity, to catch those waves that those storms and hurricanes produce on our island. The surfers usually know what they’re getting into; it’s more the bathers who are getting into places they should not be, and that’s why they should have lifeguards in those places.”
The measure was stopped during the Project of the House 20, a discussion that included the Secretary of the Recreation and Sports Department, the President of the Chamber Recreation and Sports Commission, Carlos Méndez, and Ernie Álvarez, the executive director of the Federation of Surfing of Puerto Rico.
The prevention of the measure can be seen as a win for the little guy–a group of concerned citizens who took on big, crooked business and won.