Kayaker and Sierra Club oppose new boat ride business out of San Luis Bay

A new San Luis Bay boat ride designed to give tourists a view of the coast from Avila Beach to Oceano faces a challenge from the Sierra Club and a local kayaker.

The ride, offered by Wave Jammers, takes four to six tourists at a time on a 45-minute coastal tour from Avila Beach down to the Ocean Dunes and back. It received approval earlier this month from the Port San Luis Harbor Commission.

Rob Mohle, who has lived in Avila Beach for going on 35 years and has written a book about kayaking, calls the Wave Jammers activity “a thrill ride, fast and noisy.” He said you can hear the boat for miles.

Mohle said the Harbor Commission did not consider the environmental consequences of allowing the boat to operate. “It will affect whales, otters and other sea life,” he told The Tribune.

He contacted the Santa Lucia chapter of the Sierra Club, which on June 4 appealed the Harbor Commission’s approval to the Coastal Commission.

The appeal says Wave Jammers should have a coastal permit for its boat ride, and adds that the ride should fall under the state’s California Environmental Quality Act. The Harbor Commission exempted the ride from the Act.

Andrew Christie, coordinator of the Sierra Club’s Santa Lucia chapter, said the Harbor Commission’s approval of this operation was part of a “worrisome trend’ of commission decisions that did not take into account the effects on the environment.

However, Ed Coppola, co-owner of Wave Jammers, said the boat – a 25-foot Nordic – is “not noisy at all.” He also rents jet skis, he said, and “I run the greenest jet skis on the market.”

He said the Sierra Club’s complaints that he is damaging kelp beds don’t make sense because if he goes into the kelp he will get stuck. He also runs his boat far off shore, Coppola added.

“We’re here to have a good time,” Coppola said. “They’re making a big deal over nothing. They’re raising a fuss because they have nothing better to do.”

Coppola added that he has to comply with harbor commission regulations because his license will be pulled if he doesn’t.

Steve McGrath of the harbor district concurred. He added that Wave Jammers has a good track record with the district.