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Why are swimmers allowed near a pier when surfers aren’t?

Brandy Bryant

Surfers in Holden Beach enjoy waves generated Oct 27,2012, by Hurricane Sandy. StarNews photo By: Ken Blevins.

Q. Why, if surfers are banned from surfing within 300 feet of a pier, are swimmers allowed to swim right against a pier, under a pier, and in some cases, have even jerked on a fishing line coming down from the pier?

A. The answer varies from beach town to beach town. Some permit swimming near a pier, others don’t.

According to Frank Smith, fire chief for the town of Wrightsville Beach, swimming and surfing are not allowed anywhere near the pier.

“Under the Town of Wrightsville Beach’s Code of Ordinances, surfing is prohibited within 500 feet of Johnnie Mercer’s Pier, currently our only active fishing pier,” says Smith. “Swimming is prohibited within 100 feet of the pier.”

These ordinances appear in Chapter 92 of the Town Code, available online from the Town’s website www.towb.org.

“Swimming directly under the pier is not permitted and on busy beach days we actually station a lifeguard on foot at the waterline 100 feet from the pier to move swimmers away from the pier and ‘catch’ any swimmers carried towards the pier by the current,” says Smith.

Smith said the reason the distance for surfers is further than it is for swimmer is because surfers tend to be in deeper water closer to the end of the pier where people are fishing.

For the town of Oak Island, there is an ordinance in place for surfing near the pier, but Public Information Officer Kyle Thomas, says there is not one about swimming.

“We do have an ordinance on surfing near the piers in Oak Island,” says Thomas. “I do not see anything on swimming near the pier. We do not have an ordinance in place on this matter.”

The Oak Island ordinance states the following restrictions:

Sec. 22-5. – Surfing restrictions.

(a) No person shall push or ride any surfboard, body-board or ski-board within 350 feet of any fishing pier in the ocean adjacent to any property within the town limits.

(b) No person shall leave or enter the ocean with any surfboard, body-board or ski-board over any property within 350 feet of any ocean fishing pier in the town.

(c) Violations of this section shall be punishable by proceedings as provided for in section 1-7 or as provided for in G.S. 14-4.

For information on a specific beach’s swimming and surfing ordinances, visit that town’s website.


Where are some good local surfing spots?

Are there sharks in coastal Carolina’s waters?

Let me know if you need anything else.



User-contributed question by:
Darrell C Parks

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3 Responses to “ Why are swimmers allowed near a pier when surfers aren’t?”

  1. On March 19, 2013 at 9:59 am Darrell Parks wrote:

    Thanks for the information. Sounds like Oak Island needs a new regulation.

  2. On March 20, 2013 at 7:46 am Will wrote:

    I think it is crazy for anyone to swim near a pier, especially when people are fishing. I’ve fished on piers in the area for years and have noticed several sharks in the waters proximate to the pier. Fisherman are constantly cutting bait, removing fish heads and throwing dead fish back into the waters below the pier. This naturally attracts sharks. The bottom line is don’t swim near piers while people are fishing, especially in the mornings and evenings.

  3. On March 21, 2013 at 4:09 pm Si Cantwell wrote:

    I think that’s a very good point!

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