Penticton floats moorage and beach use

While the flying man has moved on, the day moorage on the west end of Okanagan Beach in Penticton is here to stay.

FlyBoard Andrei

FlyBoard Andrei

While the flying man has moved on, the day moorage on the west end of Okanagan Beach is here to stay.

While the 30 metre area stretching east of the S.S. Sicamous has been the subject of concern by some beach users, the City of Penticton is trying to address some of the concerns by taking steps to better mark off the area.

“We’re going to make it a bit more obvious about the possible conflicts there,” said Len Robson, public works manager. Some work has been done already, with adjustments to the white marker buoys, some of which are already strung with lane markers.

“We are going to continue on so it delineates that side better. We are going to be adjusting some signs, putting a few extra signs up there to make it a little more clear that this is a boating area,” said Robson.

The new moorage area got a lot of attention in July and August, due to the flying man often seen off shore there. Flyboard Rentals, which has recently closed and returned to Calgary, set up a new business there, offering rides on the latest sports device to hit Canadian waters. With water jets strapped to wrists and feet, powered through a hose linked through a jet ski, the Flyboard allowed riders to fly like comic book hero Ironman — at $75 per hour.

Land technician Peter Wallace, part of the city’s planning department, said they consider the project carefully before granting the company a $1,200 beach vendor licence and assigning them a spot at the day moorage area. His first exposure was to videos of the device in operation.

“We passed those around to different department heads to decide whether or not it was prudent thing for the city to become involved in. It appears to be on the risky side,” said Wallace. Despite the risky appearance of the new sport, the city decided to green light the project, provided the owner could meet criteria like securing an insurance policy and meeting boating safety and navigable waters regulations.

“The city is trying to promote more activity on the beach, more excitement, more things going on,” said Wallace. “that was why it was embraced, because it did look new and exciting and it was something that people would watch. Certainly, there were lots of people standing around watching whenever someone was flying the thing.”

But not so many of those people were willing to fork over $75 per hour to ride the Flyboard, and with costs like an insurance policy estimated at $10,000 and the price of the equipment — about $8000 from NBD Watersports — the flyboard rental company has pulled up stakes. Wallace said the city hasn’t heard safety concerns relating to the Flyboard itself, though there was some concern from established rental companies in the area.

“I keep hearing this all the time that the pie is only so big. Every time you bring something new in, it takes money out of our pockets,” said Wallace. “It’s competition though. Certainly council has given us direction that we are not in the business of preventing a free market and competition.”

While city  has received several complaints, Wallace said they were not related to safety. The larger concern was that the day moorage area took away swimming area for boating. The concept of a day moorage area was introduced during the 2012 budget process, when discussion arose about an opportunity for boaters on Okanagan Lake to tie up at the west end.

“We had received a lot of comments from boaters that there wasn’t that opportunity,” said city manager Annette Antoniak.  “In light of the fact that there was all this work being contemplated with respect to the waterfront being a priority, as an interim measure, it was decided to create that area.”

Robson said the Sicamous day moorage area is gaining popularity, and an existing day moorage farther down the beach has seen a significant increase in usage.

“For the longest time, people thought there was nowhere to moor a boat on Okanagan Beach in Penticton,” said Robson. Along with the new area by the Sicamous, people are catching on to the existing area east of the Lakeside Resort. “It wasn’t well marked or advertised so it wasn’t much used at all. During Peachfest, I noticed there was probably five to eight boats out there. If not pulled right up, just anchored straight off there.”