Seeking ultimate clarity in beach law
February 15, 2012
The beach-loving Ultimate Frisbee community has a message for the Board of Supervisors: Game on.
Several Ultimate Frisbee devotees, concerned about the impact of a new beach ordinance on their sport, came to the Hall of Administration Tuesday to give supervisors a piece of their minds—but ended up giving them a tutorial on the game, too.
“I don’t know what Ultimate Frisbee is. I’m sure it’s a great sport…But if you’re throwing projectiles around a beach when there are hundreds of thousands of people at the beach, the public safety comes first…It’s common sense that we’re asking you to employ,” board chairman Zev Yaroslavsky told the visiting players before asking them to explain their game.
“It’s a team sport. On the beach, it’s four on four or five on five, on a football-type field, not that big, with two end zones. And you advance the disc by throwing it to people on your team and you score by throwing it to a teammate in the end zone,” explained Alison Regan, a member of the Los Angeles Organization of Ultimate Teams, or LAOUT.
Yaroslavsky wondered how that would work in the midst of summer beach crowds: “So on a 90-degree day in Santa Monica in July or August, I would imagine it’s pretty tough to find space to have a game like this?”
“The beaches are large enough that we usually find some room,” Regan replied. “But we have to be accommodating, you’re right. When the public wants to walk through, we have to stop our play and we let the public walk through.”
It was the growth of new beach sports such as beach tennis and soccer that led to a recent liberalization of the county’s rules on ball-playing on the sand.
However, widespread erroneous media reports last week claimed that the county had enacted $1,000 fines for football and Frisbee playing at the shore, sparking a local uproar that quickly was heard ’round the world.
Although Department of Beaches and Harbors director Santos Kreimann moved to clarify the policy, saying that the new rules actually permitted football- and Frisbee-playing as long as it didn’t endanger other people on a crowded beach, the Ultimate Frisbee contingent was still troubled.
Tiffany Wallace, who plays on Solidarity Ultimate, which she described as a social justice Ultimate Frisbee team, said people should be allowed to use “Frisbees, footballs, soccer balls, even Ping Pong balls” at the beach without prompting “selective enforcement” under a too-vague ordinance.
Her sister, Julia Wallace, also addressed the board. “If the law is on the books, that’s enough to cause fear,” she said. “So it actually has to change.”
The board agreed. Supervisors, acting on a motion that Supervisor Don Knabe had submitted before the players testified, ordered a rewrite of the Frisbee- and ball-playing section of the new ordinance.
The new language should clearly state that “such activities by small groups and individuals are allowed at all times on the County beach” unless lifeguards direct otherwise for public safety reasons, the motion said.
Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas suggested that the players come back for an Ultimate Frisbee demonstration sometime.
And on their Facebook page, Ladies of La—Women’s Ultimate Frisbee, the disc-hurling activists declared victory.