Southern California’s vibrant surf culture shut down by COVID-19

As Southern California has burst forth from a rainy winter into a radiant spring, the world outside people’s windows is increasingly at odds with the reality of today’s COVID-19 environment. Normally, the first blue skies of April would see long lines of cars waiting to get into beach parking lots, towels and umbrellas all over the sand, and plenty of surfboards and wetsuits bobbing along on the horizon.

Instead, all state beaches and parking lots are closed and surfing advocacy groups are urging their members to stay home.

“We love the beach and surfing as much as anyone, but we have seen beach closures around the country and the world due to overcrowding, so please stay local, honor closures and avoid crowded public spaces,” said Surfrider Foundation CEO Chad Nelsen in a statement.

The Surfrider Foundation is focusing on its efforts as a coastal conservation advocacy group and is staying engaged in its fight to end the use of disposable plastics.

Surfline.com, one of the most popular websites dedicated to surf culture hosts hundreds of live stream cameras around the globe, which allow surfers to check live conditions. Almost all of them are broadcasting empty shores and beautiful weather this week, while the editors of the site advise readers to “Shred at Home.”

“In taking stock of the current situation, our view is this: shred at home,” reads a statement from the site’s editors. “We don’t say this lightly, as connecting surfers with their passion is our entire mission. We deeply understand the draw to the ocean, especially as a means to relieve stress in trying times. However, as of mid-April, millions of surfers around the world are being urged to stay home.”

In Southern California, surfers have largely respected the shutdowns. One Manhattan Beach surfer was fined $1,000 at the end of March for violating a stay at home order, but, as of now, that’s been an isolated incident.

In Long Beach, there aren’t enough waves to bring surfers, but it has a vibrant kite surfing scene. Outside of surfing, the beach here is a well-used recreation area with a highly-trafficked pedestrian and bike path. All of those facilities—along with the city’s parks and playgrounds—are closed through at least May 1.

“While many have been practicing social distancing and adjusting their daily routines, we continue to see the gathering of groups on our public beaches,” said Mayor Robert Garcia in a statement announcing the closures. “It is critical that we continue to take swift action as we work together to do the right thing and address this public health crisis.”

Until then, Southern California’s surfers and beach-goers will have to keep shredding at home.

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Mike and JJ go together like mac and cheese: they’re best friends, business partners and Long Beach sports experts. They’ve been working together for over a decade covering Long Beach local sports and now run the562.org, a community-funded nonprofit media outlet.
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