The Bartles & James Surf Team likes Bluff Cove. When the surf is up, team members can cruise the long, gentle curls almost a quarter of a mile onto the rocky beach in Palos Verdes Estates.
The waves may not be spectacular, but to David Constable, 73, and Fenton Scholes, 69--retirees who have been told they resemble the wine cooler promoters on television--the cove has been perfect for beginning surfers and old-timers for more than 30 years.
"Bluff Cove is one of the oldest and best surfing spots around here," Constable said. "During the summer it's just loaded with people and lots of kids. The problem now is that the jet skiers like it, too."
Jet skiers are attracted to the waters for the same reasons as young surfers. They like the calm water and use the low surf to master the art of jumping waves in their motorized water scooters.
"My friends call this place 'Paradise Cove' because it's such a great place to ride," said Dave Barnes, a 20-year-old jet skier from Redondo Beach. "The waves all break really well."
This month, Constable and other longtime surfers at Bluff Cove went to the Palos Verdes Estates City Council to request that something be done to prevent jet skiers from coming inside the breakwater of the cove, where they compete with swimmers and surfers for space.
"It's a pretty dangerous situation," Constable said. "Jet skiers like to come in toward the beach and then turn around and go out and jump the waves. But when they go back out, they can't see what's on the other side of the waves.
"I'd compare it to a bunch of motorcycles tearing through a Little League baseball game."
The council, expressing concern for the Bluff Cove surfers, directed City Manager Gordon Siebert to find a way to enforce the California Harbor and Naval Code, which prohibits motorized vessels from coming within 100 feet of bathers, including surfers, or within 200 feet of the beach.
Since that meeting, Siebert said, he has been working with the Police Department and "if they can't enforce the current legislation, then I will ask them to suggest what measures might be appropriate in the future." The council is scheduled to discuss the matter at 7:30 p.m. Oct. 13.
Capt. Mike Tracy, the city's acting police chief, said the main problem is enforcing existing state and county codes.
Bay Watch, a county lifeguard boat patrol, can enforce the county law prohibiting motor vessels from coming within 300 yards of the shoreline. However, Tracy said, when the patrol sees someone violating the law it usually will call for a uniformed officer to write out a citation.
Tracy said that it takes about 20 minutes to get a police officer to the cove and "if (the violators) are still there when we arrive, then we can get on the (public address system) and tell them to knock it off. If they choose not to knock it off, then we can cite them."
One Sunday afternoon, a young jet skier who would not give his name said that he had been given a ticket once for coming too close to shore. He pointed toward three other skiers circling in the surf right off the beach.
"See how they're jumping the waves? That's the fun part, but we're supposed to stay 300 yards away from the beach," he said. "What we're doing here is totally illegal."
Another skier, Ronnie Swindells, 20, of Redondo Beach, said he has not seen significant problems between skiers and surfers because when the cove fills up with surfers in the rougher winter water, the jet skiers "usually don't come into the waves. Everybody starts screaming at them."
When a similar conflict came up between windsurfers and jet skiers at Cabrillo Beach in San Pedro last March, the Los Angeles Harbor Department worked with representatives of the two groups to reach a "really nice compromise," according to Pat Hulett, a jet skier who is president of the Class A Boating Assn., headquartered in San Pedro. Jet skis are classified as boats under state law.
"It's a self-policing program," Hulett said, where the jet skiers agree to stay 300 yards offshore and to follow a newly marked 5-m.p.h. speed limit when closer to the beach. The association, which has more than 2,500 members in California, Arizona and Nevada, also has introduced a boating safety course in conjunction with the U. S. Coast Guard to help keep boating and jet ski enthusiasts informed of safety regulations, he said.
"We're not out there to have anybody lose any space for recreating," Hulett said.
"But in an area (like Bluff Cove) where there are no lifeguards, you have to learn how to share," John Oliver, the Redondo Beach City Clerk and a longtime surfer of Bluff Cove, said. "Wherever you are going to find divers or surfers, it's going to be incompatible with jet skiers. It's a situation where you have a 350-pound motor vehicle going 30 miles an hour in a swimming area. It's a new kind of problem."