The Newport Chapter of Surfrider Foundation recently just completed a project with the City of Newport to develop and install beautiful new beach and surfer etiquette and safety signs at Agate Beach, a popular surf and tourist destination. The project was a partnered effort supported by the Oregon Coast Visitor’s Association to help improve the visitor experience and safety at the newly improved access point at Agate Beach near Lucky Gap Trail. With an increasing number of helicopter assisted rescues in the prominent rip current (tide) and impacts of visitors to the beach and natural resources, Surfrider and partners continue to look for creative ways to educate and safeguard visitors to the popular surf destination.
Every year, nearly a dozen or so helicopter rescues are performed by the US Coast Guard along the south side of Yaquina Head in Newport, Oregon. The area features an extremely strong rip current that local surfers utilize to their advantage like an escalator to the outside surf zone. But each summer, young swimmers, novice surfers and many tourists unaware and inexperienced with the ocean, find themselves swept into a dangerous situation with the rip current that moves them quickly offshore. Panic generally ensues and if a fellow surfer or experienced waterman isn’t near, they often find themselves climbing out, stranded on a rock and in need of rescue. Surfer or not, if you play on the beach in Oregon (or really anywhere) you should understand the basic concepts of rip currents and how to escape them.
Surfrider and the City of Newport hope the signs will make people aware of the rip current before they enter the water. They also hope the additional information will help visitors and new surfers learn how to be safer and respectful in the water. There are rules in the ocean. They keep us all safe in the water and respectful of each other – it’s important everyone has some understanding of these general principles. The chapter also wants to see people being respectful of the beach, cleaning up after themselves, their pets and managing their beach fires.
The chapter felt the information needed to be beautiful to be read; thus, each sign was really a piece of art, a unique watercolor piece contracted to Todd Fischer, a popular surf artist in the Pacific Northwest, who did an extraordinary job with the project.
For the past 10 years, the rapid growth in the use of this area by surfers, tourists and local beachgoers alike has prompted these and many additional investments in the popular beach access point. In the spring of 2010, Newport Surfrider engaged in a campaign to retain the public right of way which at the time was slated to be vacated for potential private development interests. Opportunities arose to further support the City of Newport in an acquisition and development project that resulted in the improved beach access, bathroom facilities, parking lot and road re-routing. Considering this public access point straddles a private neighborhood and a few commercial businesses, the project took several years to complete, but will make this popular surf destination much more inviting to the public and easier to use.
This spot really does deserve the new facilities and it’s our responsibility to educate those who visit as best as we can. The improved trail will support better response to emergency situations and allow more accessibility to the beach. Bathrooms will support people going where they should go, instead of the bushes, yuck!
This isn’t the first attempt Surfrider’s Newport Chapter has made at supporting safety at the popular surf destination. In 2015, when federal budget cuts threatened to relocate Newport Coast Guard’s helicopter operations to North Bend, Surfrider joined the Save the Helo campaign by mapping out the critical life saving responses performed each year for shoreside users at this and other popular beach locations, building a case for retaining the helo services. When over 20,000 pounds of crab gear and wreckage from the Chevelle washed ashore the headland, the Newport Chapter was there and organized to clean it up. Agate Beach and Yaquina Head is a special place to Newport Chapter and the many recreational users that visit every day. As such, Surfrider will continue to protect this special place and aim to protect those that enjoy it!