Pressure on Ocean Beach and SoCal Surfers to Stop Surfing During Coronavirus Shut-Down

by on March 25, 2020 · 8 comments

in Health, Ocean Beach

There’s a lot of pressure on OB and SoCal surfers right now to stop surfing during this coronavirus shut-down. As local cases and deaths mount, government has had to respond to the ignoring of pleas from the Governor on down to the mayor to get off the beach. The front page of the San Diego Union-Tribune for today, Wednesday, March 25, showed SDPD officers stopping a surfer from going down the stairs at Sunset Cliffs. The City of San Diego was forced to shut beach and coastal parking lots because many didn’t take the warning seriously at the beach and in the ocean.

Fines and enforcement face those surfers who don’t abide by the new rules.

One of the largest surf websites, Surfline, issued this statement:

With regard to surfing, it’s simple: If you can’t get to the beach alone and surf alone — no standing next to your buddies in the parking lot, no chilling on the beach with a group of people — please don’t. Stay six feet apart. Always. There are many asymptomatic folks out there who can spread this thing.

Michel Bourez is leading by example: “There is a big swell coming this weekend,” he posted. “Personally, I will not go to Teahupo’o to avoid the spread of the virus. We are all in the same boat and this is very serious. The sooner we make the effort to stay at home the sooner the spread of the virus will decrease.”

Bottom line: We need to take this thing seriously, which means we all practice social distancing. Be safe and let’s watch out for each other as best we can.

Photo credit: peopleofencinitas

Sheriff deputies are being positioned at beach and cliff access points to prevent surfers from going into the water. Surfer Magazine issued this rare commentary:

The hits just keep coming.

With confirmed cases of COVID-19 in the United States rising each day (and after Governor Gavin Newsom’s “Shelter-in-place” went largely ignored last weekend along the Southern California coast), the city of San Diego has followed in the footsteps of Italy, France and Spain by ordering the closing of all city-owned beaches this morning.

According to the San Diego Union Tribune, “Dr. Wilma Wooten, director of the county’s public health department, made it clear that she didn’t miss the wall-to-wall coverage of San Diegans frolicking by the shore and packed onto trails over the weekend.” In the article, Wooten was quoted, saying: “If jurisdictions are not able to enforce social gathering, we will close the beaches.”

Which is exactly what happened. Effective this morning, San Diego’s list of closures includes all bays, lakes, boardwalks, parks, trails and city beaches in San Diego, Del Mar, Carlsbad, Solana Beach and Encinitas. Oceanside and Coronado haven’t closed their beaches (yet), though they did shut down parking lots and playgrounds. At time of press, state beach lots are also still open.

We called Paul Brencick from the City of Encinitas to get the scoop on the details of the closures in Encinitas. “The City of Encinitas ordered all the beach access points and parking lots be closed,” Brencick told us, just moments ago. “That basically means nobody is allowed to be out on the beaches or in the water. They are patrolling the beaches in partnership with the Sheriff’s office, and trying to get verbal compliance by making announcements over the PA, putting signs up, and making contact with anyone on the beach or in the water to advise them to please comply with the order.”

When asked what will happen if beachgoers/surfers refuse to leave or get out, Brencick continues: “If someone is not cooperative, they could be cited and fined. We hope not, which is why we’re hoping people will comply on their own before we have to go down that path.” It’s still unclear if, when or exactly how much you’ll be fined if caught in the ocean. That said, we imagine we’ll learn more in the next few days. Especially if surfers continue to disobey orders.

While beach and ocean closures totally suck, just remember: The virus is still spreading, people are still dying, and eventually our governments have to draw a hard line somewhere. Unfortunately, that line now stands in the way of catching waves.

Perhaps all the pressure and warnings are paying off. Here’s what OB looked like at 10:10 am today.

OB Surfcam.


{ 8 comments… read them below or add one }

Geoff Page March 25, 2020 at 10:55 am

If a surfer dressed in a full wetsuit and drenched in salt water is in danger then we are really in trouble. Please, really?


Scott Stephens March 25, 2020 at 3:59 pm

Rather than ban all ocean water activities, Lifeguards could ensure surfers & bodysurfers are solo and approach anyone who is getting even within 10 feet of someone else on the beach or in the water. I’m not really sure of the best approach but we all know the ocean and exercise both have healing properties. I would hope they would allow some exceptions. I’m in Costa Rica and beaches are closed here as well. I go at 5:30 AM, quietly. I’m into extreme social distancing but there is no one in the water when we go out and that was even before Covid.


Peter from South O March 26, 2020 at 3:36 am

The lifeguards certainly have better things to do than monitor how far apart surfers are. And of course there is the SUP crowd who would want to be included, etc. etc.


Christo K March 26, 2020 at 7:48 am

The last thing beach communities need is people driving here to recreate. We are all in this together and need to do what we can to support each other. Stay home.


Tyler March 27, 2020 at 8:23 am

This is so dumb. You might as well shut down anyone from running or biking or heck… you have a bigger chance of drawing a need for emergency by cutting up veggies for your dinner!


Tyler March 27, 2020 at 8:26 am

And of course, empirically speaking, there is no evidence that shutting down the ocean is going to do anything. There’s only two options I can think of for someone actually contracting it in the ocean:

1. someone in the lineup spits in your face or in the water right after you surface.
2. someone living along the river has COVID-19 and puts their bodily fluids into the river and somehow a surfer catches is downstream.

Both are quite close to 0 probability.


Peter from South O April 3, 2020 at 2:12 pm

From the Union-Tribune
Kim Prather — a UC San Diego atmospheric scientist who studies how viruses and bacteria are ejected from the ocean — pleaded with surfers on Monday to stay out of the water to minimize their chances of contracting the coronavirus.

Prather urged people who have been bicycling or walking along the coast to do the same.

“Surfers are saying that they’re safe if they stay 6 feet away from other people, but that’s only true if the air isn’t moving,” said Prather, who works at UCSD’s Scripps Institution of Oceanography. “Most of the time, there’s wind or a breeze at the coast. Tiny drops of virus can float in the air and get blown around.”


Debbie March 28, 2020 at 10:12 am

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