Expansion of the limited area in which one can surf and paddleboard in Hollywood is not something we’re looking to achieve for selfish reasons, but for safety concerns of our sisters that surf and paddle in the Hollywood area. Or likely would if their safety wasn’t a concern. Our chapter chair, Cat Uden, often struggles with balancing safety and her love of the ocean.

A message from our chair:

This is part of the reason why I would like the (tiny, restrictive) paddleboard zone on Hollywood Beach to be expanded to include a portion of the Broadwalk. It’s DANGEROUS to be forcing women to park in sketchy areas of the beach. Right now, we can only paddle near Azalea before the Broadwalk begins, and around Franklin St, which is a huge distance from where the Broadwalk ends.

The other day, a man waited on the beach, staring at me, waiting for me to get out of the water, even telling me, “I’ve been waiting for you” as I got close. I stayed in the water until he left. Last week, a man was lurking around Perry St parking area, but luckily, 2 male paddleboarders that I knew were walking to their car at the same time, so I walked up with them. Earlier this summer, I arrived to Perry St before sunrise, by myself, and a man pulled his kidnapper van next to mine, walked towards me, and wasn’t stopping, so I dropped everything and ran.

These parking areas are not visible to others, and anyone can drag me into the bushes and nobody would know. You want to look at this from a public safety perspective? Fine. Am I really that dangerous on my paddleboard in flat water? I am not surfing Waimea waves into a crowd of people. Most of the time, we are not near any people while we’re paddling, and we still get hassled by the lifeguards (including my lifeguard friend Jorge, who always apologizes that he has to hassle me and ruin my fun).

I am just so incredibly frustrated that anyone would think it is more dangerous for me to be paddleboarding along the shore than at the car by alone by myself in a sketchy area. (And NO, I am not going to stop paddleboarding by myself). I have had so many friends tell me that they’ve been hassled by the lifeguards when they aren’t even very close to shore, and when they aren’t around people. Whether it be flat or strong offshore wind, they are whistled at and told to paddle back out to sea. We have a beautiful beach, and we have beautiful water.

Even on days where my whiny fellow Hollywood residents like to complain about the horror of seaweed, there is crystal clear water 20 yards off shore that I am enjoying. We should be promoting our beach as a beautiful place to enjoy water recreation and snorkeling. Promote eco-tourism! But to restrict our paddle zone to such tiny areas makes no sense. You can paddle anywhere on Miami Beach- there is no such thing as a no paddle zone. We can at least extend our areas to include a portion of the Broadwalk.

It would make the beach more pleasant, and more safe for women. I have been in contact with Mayor Josh Levy. Please everyone, write to our city and show up at city meetings to ask them to make our beach more paddleboard friendly. We could actually help save a woman from getting attacked while trying to enjoy a simple water recreation activity.

If you want to help with our efforts to expand the surf/SUP zone in Hollywood, please email our chair at chair@broward.surfrider.org.