Meet the New Harbormaster, Kurt Borsting

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New Harbormaster Kurt Borsting at Marina Park on Wednesday.
— Photo by Sara Hall ©

Newport Beach Harbormaster Kurt Borsting has been “blown away” by his first week.

The welcome he’s received, the passion for the harbor, the engaged residents, it’s been a great start, he said on Wednesday.

“This is the crown jewel of the city,” Borsting said. “Getting the chance to be one of the caretakers of this super valuable community resource is one of the things I’m looking forward to.”

Borsting was most previously employed as the marine operations superintendent for the city of Long Beach’s Marine Bureau. He helped manage their commercial harbor, Rainbow Harbor, the city’s large Shoreline Marina in Alamitos Bay, as well as some of the busiest launch ramps on the California coast.

“There are a lot of similarities,” between Newport and Long Beach harbors, Borsting said. “A lot of things in both environments feel familiar and comfortable.”

There are more similarities than differences, he added.

For example, he’s going from about 3,200 boat slips managed by the city of Long Beach, to 441 shore moorings and approximately 800 moorings in Newport Beach’s mooring fields. Although the numbers are different, the permitting process is similar, Borsting pointed out.

Dealing with the sea lion challenges will be a new issue, he noted.

Something he has found at both harbors: The spirit of collaboration.

He immediately became aware of a sense of shared responsibility for Newport Harbor, he noted, between the city management, Harbor Department, law enforcement, citizens, yachtsmen, visitors, mooring permittees, Harbor Commissioners, and others.

Everyone loves the community and wants to advance it, Borsting said at his first Harbor Commission meeting last week.

New Newport Beach Harbormaster Kurt Borsting participates in a Harbor Plan study session exercise at Marina Park on Dec. 12.
— Photo by Sara Hall ©

“Learning from all those different perspectives, I think, is going to help our team contribute and be a continued success here,” Borsting said this week. “What an engaged group of citizens here… I am so impressed.”

In his first week, he’s learned a lot, Borsting said. He’s tried to “meet everybody ad anybody,” he joked. His first few days included a lot of preparation for the Newport Beach Christmas Boat Parade.

Jumping in just before the year’s biggest event on the water hits Newport Harbor has been a fun and interesting, Borsting noted. He’s met with Boat Parade organizers, the Harbormaster team cruised the route checking safety and other issues, and they’re taking notes on how to improve.

“That was a great learning experience for me right off the bat,” Borsting said.

Looking ahead, his primary goal will be to help provide everybody with the opportunity for a fun and safe time at Newport Harbor, while following the rules, Borsting said.

An area of focus will be on building on the city’s public information efforts, including simply letting the community know the Harbormaster team is an available resource.

“This office has an opportunity to really help get information out about both the city and broader topics,” including safe boating, he noted.

Other objectives include: Educating and enforcing the city codes, exploring how to provide after-hours customer service, the Marine Activities Permit program, and the Title 17 review.

Those areas are a starting point for the Harbormaster team’s focus, Borsting said.

The goal of being a “friendly face” on the harbor, one of the reasons for taking over management of the moorings from the Orange County Sheriff’s Department Harbor Patrol last year, is also part of the purpose of the Harbormaster team.

“I think that’s already happening right now and it’s certainly a theme we’re going to continue,” Borsting said.

Telling a story of some residents clapping from a house on shore after a member of the Harbormaster team scooped up some trash from the water, Borsting noted that it represents what they are aiming for.

“Building that type of spirit, where the community knows that this team is out there to serve them, that we’re working together,” Borsting said. “If we can do that every day, we’re going to be a super success.”

A Newport Beach staff member drives one of the city’s low-wake catamaran coaches in Newport Harbor last year.
— Courtesy the city of Newport Beach ©

He’s spent a lot of time in Newport and on the water here, he said.

“As a kid, my favorite thing to do was to get on that ferry and head over for a balboa bar,” he said.

Borsting grew up and is raised his own family in nearby coastal city, Long Beach.

“I grew up loving the water,” he said.

As a young kid, he learned to sail sabots at the local center and took “every parks and rec swim lesson they offered,” he joked.

In high school, he joined the junior crew program and was out on the water as much as he could be.

Now, he continues to head out on the bay every summer as he crews for a friend.

“It’s been fun to take that interest in the water into my profession,” Borsting said.

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