Seahawks flock to beach

by Kelly Corbett
Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Lumina News file photo 

Wrightsville Beach Ocean Rescue keeps a close eye on University of North Carolina Wilmington students with yellow flag conditions as they enjoy the ocean during the Beach Blast event on Aug. 23, 2011.

One day before the fall semester begins on Aug. 20, thousands of University of North Carolina Wilmington students will head to Wrightsville Beach’s Public Beach Access No. 36 for Beach Blast 2013.

While safety and security are less of a concern than years past, Town of Wrightsville Beach officials are currently working to make sure construction equipment beneath Crystal Pier is moved before the event. 

Tony Wilson, Wrightsville Beach planning and parks director, said the contracting company’s goal is to have all of the equipment removed by Aug. 16.

“If they’re not out of there, we could look at another site and that will be determined maybe later on this week as a backup plan,” he said.

The four-hour school event, featuring free pizza and soda, a DJ and 12 vendors, will be held from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m.

The event was canceled due to poor weather conditions in 2012 and in 2006. No rain date is scheduled. Beach Blast 2011 welcomed the most students to the beach with more than 4,000 students.

Eleven Wave Transit shuttles bring students from campus to the beach and back.

Jon Kapell, UNCW director for campus activities and involvement, said he is trying to find some university shuttles to help supplement the Wave Transit vehicles.

Throughout the years the number of students attending the event has increased, and he said the event has also become more secure and safe.

“I have about 40 professional staff on the beach with about 25 student volunteers and 11 security staff and three beach police officers, lifeguards and EMTs,” Kapell said. “There is a heavy visual presence of administrators and security, so the level of incidents has actually decreased. … I can only tell you from anecdotal experience that’s what I see. … I don’t spend a lot of my time addressing conduct of alcohol. The issues I deal with are someone who got sun burnt, someone who may be dehydrated.”

Students’ bags are checked for alcohol at multiple points.

Wrightsville Beach Police Chief Dan House said typically about one squad, equal to four officers, is on duty at Beach Blast. House and some of the other staff stop by during the span of the event.

“Years ago they used to allow alcohol … and when they did we had all kinds of issues,” House said. “But for the last three-four years, they haven’t allowed alcohol. We didn’t have any issues two years ago, and we don’t anticipate having any this year.”

The Wrightsville Beach Board of Aldermen initiated the Party the Wright Way campaign in 2011 to encourage safe and socially-responsible behavior.

Mayor David Cignotti said as part of the program there will also be signage and koozies available at Beach Blast and he has written a welcome letter to UNCW students the past three years.

“It’s just a way of welcoming students to our community, but also letting them know some of our expectations,” Cignotti said. “… Wrightsville Beach is definitely the Seahawk beach, because they’re right down the street from us, so most of the students choose Wrightsville Beach as their beach of choice. And I think it makes sense that you welcome the students down here and ask them to be part of your community. You treat them well and reach out to them, I think most of them will sort of police themselves some and try to appreciate the environment that’s here.”

Kapell said organizers have found a formula that works well for Beach Blast.

“The only addition that I am putting into place is I’m going to put some staff in the parking lot area to assist the departure of the students as they get back onto the shuttles, and that’s at the request of the Oceanic because we don’t want to block their incoming clientele,” he said. 

Following Beach Blast, students from UNCW Surfrider and the Environmental Concerns Organization will conduct a joint beach sweep from 4-6 p.m. to remove any trash left behind.


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