Since 2008 conflict in above beaches between surf schools has been an ongoing problem, with many schools prevented from using those beaches in a scenario reminiscent of the “Old Wild West”, where fighting, harassment and violence was the order of the day, with many surf schools being forced to teach on other far-away beaches.
As a result, the previous capitania’s administration issued the first maritime bylaw under “Edital 3/2011” allocating only 12 licences for the above-mentioned beaches.
Unfortunately the opportunity to apply for a licence under this previous “Edital” was not brought to the attention of all surf schools, with the result that only those in the know were given the opportunity to apply for them.
It could be argued that poor communication in the part of the previous capitania’s administration led to an unfair, biased and anti-competitive situation which has prevailed until this year.
After extensive negotiations between ASMAA and the Capitania do Porto de Lagos since 2012, ASMAA received on Friday the 3 of May the new Edital (Edital 17/2013), which is a more fair process for the allocation of licences to surf schools for the bathing season starting on 1 June and ending on the 30 September of this year.
In addition we also received confirmation of a clarification meeting to be held between the association and the Capitania for Monday the 6 May 2013.
During the clarification meeting, Captain Rui Martins, commandant for the Capitania de Lagos told ASMAA’S representatives:” I believe this is a fair process, after all, all surf schools will have access to licences over time, and licences will be allocated through a rotation system each year from now on. Surf schools are invited to apply for the available licences, although preference will be given to surf schools that did not have access to licences in the previous year.
Only four licences will be issued per beach and the selection process will be as follows:
- All surf schools that are interested in being licensed for the three beaches training corridors can apply. Each school must indicate in order of preference the beaches that they are interested in.
- The first selection indicator is – Was the school licensed for the selected beaches in the previous year. Yes or No! If No, then they will be short-listed”. If there are more than 4 schools qualifying for each beach then the next selection indicator will be applied, namely:
- How far is the registered address of the surf school from the selected beach? The surf schools closer to the beaches will then be once again short-listed. If there are more than 4 schools qualifying for each beach then the next selection indicator will be applied, namely - Date of registration with the Portuguese Surf Federation. The oldest schools will then have preference in the selection process.
- Closing date for applications is 23 May 2013”
We congratulate the Capitania’s management in its efforts to bring a more equitable licence allocation process, but we also believe that there are still some challenges that need to be addressed. After all, there are 25 surf schools operating officially in the Algarve and only 12 licences are available with the allocation of four licences per beach, where Arrifana has only 2 corridors in July and August and 3 in June and September, Amado on the other hand has 4 corridors, and Cordoama has 3 throughout the season.
We have to also acknowledge that each corridor can accommodate up to two surf classes with a maximum of 48 individuals and two lessons each class per day without impacting on the safety of clients and other beach users or without reducing the quality of service.
Notwithstanding the above, during the previous year’s season (2012), ASMAA management became aware that licensed surf schools were selling available space in their licensed corridors to other surf schools/surf camps and that at times the number of students far exceeded the maximum number of people recommended in each corridor during a surf class. We believe that this is an unsafe practice and we do not condone such a practice.
In addition and in our opinion, the charging of fees to other “unlicensed” (for the three beaches only) surf school/surf camp operators for access to licensed corridors could also be interpreted as being an unreasonable business practice bordering on unethical grounds, especially viewed in light of the fact that those same licensees justifies licence restrictions to a maximum of 4 surf-school licences per beach on the bases that for those beaches there is the risk of having too many surf schools operating.
ASMAA is of the opinion that the problem is not one of “numbers” of surf schools operating in any given corridor in any given beach, but rather the number of “students/clients” that a corridor can safely accommodate each and every day of the year irrespective of the number of surf schools licensed per corridor.
During our negotiations with the Capitania we proposed that ASMAA be allowed to submit an application for the fair management of at least one surf corridor per beach, whereby we will manage allocation of training slots to our licensed surf school members. This request received the go-ahead from the Capitania’s representative. We further suggested that each association, namely ASMAA (Algarve Surf and Marine Activities Association) and AESCV (Associação de Escolas de Surf da Costa Vicentina) be granted this opportunity to apply.
We are of the opinion that this will greatly assist in reducing conflict and result in a more fair and equitable access and management of access to all surf schools that are members of the associations.
In addition, and because all our members as well as their employees indicated that they are concerned with the possibility of being harassed, intimidated or assaulted in those beaches should licences be awarded to our members, ASMAA has informed the Capitania of our intent to request policing by the Maritime Police in those three beaches, paid for by our association. We are of the opinion that this action on our part will not only reduce any potential future conflict situations but could also eliminate it altogether.
In an endeavour to ensure that quality and safety of service is maintained by all our members, ASMAA will soon be launching their 5-star AQUA Safety and Quality Assurance and Management System into the industry and we trust that all professional surf schools will adhere to the system. In addition ASMAA is compiling a new Voluntary Code of Good Practice for Surf Schools (owners and employees).
We invite all surf schools to talk to us as we move into the new bathing season. We are open to listen and discuss any issues with anyone willing to liaise with us.