For plenty of South Florida beaches, paddleboarders are just another part of the seascape.
Not Hollywood, where you’re more likely to see a pretty umbrella in the sand than a swift paddleboarder in the ocean.
Paddlers say that’s because Hollywood is known for having strict rules when it comes to their sport.
That’s about to change.
Paddlers, led by Surfrider champ Cat Uden, have complained for years about those tough rules. Now, after months of negotiations, Hollywood is embarking on a six-month pilot program that will give paddlers a little more breathing room.
The new rules kick in March 23.
“I just hope it’s a success,” said Bruce Wilkie, who oversees Hollywood’s 68 lifeguards. “We just hope a lot more people come to the beach and use it for recreation.”
For years, Hollywood has required paddlers and kayakers to stay 300 yards from shore once they’re out on the water, forcing them into the same channels traversed by boaters. The new rules will allow them to paddle 100 yards from shore, helping prevent potentially dangerous collisions.
Paddlers have also been required to use two narrow launch zones, leaving most of the beach off limits.
Under the pilot program, paddlers will be able to launch anywhere along the 4.5-mile beach as along as it’s before 10 a.m. The same rule applies if it’s after 6 p.m. when it’s daylight saving time and after 4:30 p.m. when it’s not.
Paddlers can still do their thing between the hours of 10 a.m. and 6 p.m., but they’ll have to enter the water and come ashore at one of four launch zones.
Two of those zones are new and will be marked by orange buoys to help act as guides for kayakers and stand-up paddlers, Wilkie said. Those zones will be at Hollywood Boulevard on the south end of the beach and at Sherman Street, near the Positano condo at Sheridan Street.
“We want to give these channels a trial period to see if they’re used or not,” Wilkie said. “If word gets out, maybe people will show up and use them.”
The two current launch zones are being rebranded as recreation areas and will be open to paddleboarders, kayakers, surfers and skim boarders.
The north recreation zone will go from Douglas Street north to Dania Beach Boulevard. The south recreation zone runs from Georgia Street to Eucalyptus Terrace.
It’s too soon to say whether the new rules will transform Hollywood into a paddling mecca, Commissioner Kevin Biederman said.
“I think we just had to have a trial period to see how things go with some relaxed rules, so that the paddling experience can be more convenient on Hollywood beach,” he said.
After the pilot program, commissioners will have to vote on the new rules before they can become permanent.
The changes won’t come free.
Hollywood plans to spend around $73,000 on 30 orange launch buoys, lifeguard equipment and 29 white buoys to mark the line where boaters aren’t supposed to cross.
The boating buoys are not part of the pilot program, but are needed to help make the beach safer, Wilkie said.
“Practically every beach but Hollywood has them: Hallandale, Fort Lauderdale, Pompano, Miami Beach, Deerfield,” Wilkie said. “We do get boats trying to come in close to pick up a friend or family member. The buoys won’t stop that, but they may cut back on it a little.”
They will be 4 feet high and placed 150 yards offshore in front of all 28 lifeguard towers along the beach. They will cost $38,000 and likely won’t arrive until September.
The orange launch zone buoys will cost $2,250 and might be in place as soon as April.
Some beachgoers are already worried about the prospect of buoys marring the natural beauty of the beach.
That includes Heather Schueler, who has lived at the beach for 20 years and been paddling for eight.
“Hollywood beach is one of the last beaches to remain quiet, natural and not overcrowded,” she said. “I would hate to see the natural beauty be destroyed by man-placed buoys in our ocean.”
Uden says she doesn’t think the buoys or extra launch zones are necessary.
“There’s no reason to create a channel for us,” she said. “We’re not like Jet Skis. No sense in spending money on all of these buoys that we don’t need.”