“Attention! Get out of the water, the red flag is flying! These were the cries of a local Barcelona policeman at 9 am Wednesday morning, addressed to a dozen surfers in the waters of Barceloneta beach. Accompanied by their colleagues from the regional force of the Mossos d’Esquadra, the police searched the beaches of the Catalan capital, whistles in hand, trying to force the surfers to leave the sea. Once on the sand, they were identified and exposed themselves now to fines of up to € 1,500 for surfing waves not exceeding 2.5 meters in height.
“I am a surf instructor in Galicia,” explained Manel Maestre, one of the surfers identified by the agents. “To me these waves are like the sea is calm. If we can’t go out and surf when there is a bit of a swell, the reality is that it means we can no longer play our sport in Barcelona.
The only time we were going to have a slightly less calm sea in Barcelona, they write to us
The surfer Eduardo Caballeros
Police action was taken after Barcelona City Hall activated its basic municipal emergency plan, given the rough seas. The town hall predicted that the waves would exceed 2.5 meters in height and announced that they could constitute a “danger to people or damage street furniture”. This basic plan expressly prohibits “entering the beach jetties or entering the water while the red flag is flying”.
“I’m from Cantabria, and the only time we were going to have a little less calm seas in Barcelona, they wrote to us,” complained surfer Eduardo Caballeros. “They took us out of the water. In addition, a colleague told them that his backpack had been stolen from where he was on the beach and only had his wetsuit left. They paid no attention to him. In the end, they ended up writing to us both, ”he explained. Surfers now face fines ranging from € 5 to € 1,500.
“It’s amazing, it’s like it’s starting to snow and just as the snow is falling they forbid skiers to go out and practice their sport,” added Maestre. Many surfers live and work in Barcelona but come from other parts of Spain, such as the Cantabrian or Atlantic coasts. “It can’t be fair that they prevent us from going out when the red flag is flying, it’s surreal,” they added.
The majority of surfers complained to the officers, but the officers insisted that when the red flag was flown, no one was allowed to enter the water. “I helped a bather who was swimming and was in difficulty,” said Maestre. “I pulled him up on my board and helped him to the shore. The next thing I knew they were writing to me.
Local police have identified all of the surfers and said if the town hall considers the rules to have been broken, the appropriate fine will be imposed. Surfers warned yesterday that if they did own a surfboard it was considered a device and as such they would not be affected by the red flag. It will now be up to the board to decide who is right.