Moncton now cautions against tidal bore surfing

Nearly 30,000 spectators lined the banks of the Petitcodiac River last week to watch four international surfers catch a ride on the tidal bore.

Moncton official says the Petitcodiac River is still not a recreational river

Roughly 30,000 spectators came out over five days to watch four professionals surf the Petitcodiac River last week. (CBC)

Nearly 30,000 spectators lined the banks of the Petitcodiac River last week to watch four international surfers catch a ride on the tidal bore.

Two American surfers even set a North American record after surfing on the tidal bore for 29 kilometres during their trip to Moncton.

The five days of tidal bore surfing created a huge buzz in the region, but the city is warning the river is not yet ready for more surfers to hop on their boards.

Sharp rocks, bacteria and limited access to the river are just some of the problems facing anyone else who may want to get into the Petitcodiac.

Ben Champoux, the city’s director of tourism and culture in Moncton, said the Petitcodiac River is not a recreational river, at this point.

"It's not yet a fully accessible, recreational river. It has the potential to become. That's why we're so excited about what has happened last week," he said.

"We strongly encourage people to be very, very, very careful about accessing the river. We do strongly encourage people now to come see the river, see the tidal bore."

There are also sections of the river that are very difficult to navigate, such as between the Gunningsville Bridge and the causeway.

Champoux said anyone attempting to get in the river must be comfortable in strong currents.

"There are strong currents not even when the wave hits but after the wave. So you have to be a very strong swimmer," he said.

Contamination concerns

Erosion has been a major concern along the Petitcodiac River since the causeway gates were opened in April 2010. (Marc Genuist/CBC)

The professional surfers were able to get into the river because the Greater Moncton Sewerage Commission agreed to reduce the amount of treated water it put into the river.

Conrad Allain, the director of operations for the commission, said a long-term solution is being developed for the river.

"Disinfection is also part of that plan so recreation can happen," he said.

Allain said the commission is actively working on biological treatments, which should be in place by 2020. 

But Daniel LeBlanc, a member of the Petitcodiac Riverkeeper, said the commission has to act more quickly.

"Obviously 2020 is very far away. Everyone would wish that that could be done earlier," LeBlanc said.

The tidal bore has been growing in popularity following the decision to open the causeway gates in Moncton.

The causeway was built in 1968 between Moncton and Riverview and the gates were opened in April 2010.

The provincial government has paid more than $1 million to purchase four properties along the river.

The Department of Transportation and Infrastructure has purchased the properties that were considered to be at risk of future flooding or erosion because of the decision to open the causeway's gates.

The provincial government had also intended to place $430,000 worth of rocks along the riverbank next to Bore Park to prevent future erosion.

However, Moncton city council voted unanimously in July to accept responsibility for 300 metres along the Petitcodiac River and cover any future costs due to erosion.