After being closed for two weeks, a unanimous vote from the city council will allow local beaches to soon reopen
By Jake Howard
On Tuesday evening, April 21, at the end of a long meeting that ran deep into the night, the San Clemente City Council voted unanimously to proceed with reopening city beaches for exercise and surfing.
Two weeks after the initial closure, the current plan is to open San Clemente beaches from North Beach south past Riviera Beach. Residents will soon be permitted to exercise on the beaches, and surfers can enjoy the ocean once again.
A firm date for opening the beaches has not been announced, but it was expressed by councilmembers that they would like to see the beaches reopened by this weekend—although it remains to be seen if they can hold back the wave of stoked surfers at this point.
Taking a cautious approach to the opening, at this time, the beaches will not be open to “passive” use—meaning don’t bring your cooler and umbrella and post up for the day. Loitering will not be tolerated. In other words, if you’re on the sand, keep it moving, folks.
Additionally, city beach parking lots will remain closed at this time to keep crowds to a minimum.
In terms of reopening nearby California State Parks, that continues to be a work in progress. The city is looking into next steps for opening the beaches at Calafia. The issue farther south at Trestles and San Onofre is a little more complicated, as those parks are in San Diego County, where beach closures are still in place.
On Tuesday morning, the Orange County Board of Supervisors voted to keep Orange County beaches open, which helped set the precedent and ease the pressure on the San Clemente City Council to move forward with its plans to open our local waters.
When the subject of our beaches finally came up during the San Clemente City Council meeting, after covering a number of other more pressing issues, the councilmembers were all quick to agree that they could be cautiously optimistic about easing restrictions.
What took so long to finally come to a vote was the reading of more than 40 letters submitted by the public. Impassioned surfers from throughout our community all spoke up to voice their support for reopening the beaches.
For the past week, a growing number of local surfers had been working closely together to make their feelings known, apply pressure to the council and offer up possible solutions about how to move forward.
From numerous parents, to resident pro surfer Kevin Schulz, to Surfline CEO Jeff Berg, the overall discourse has been respectable, solution-minded and well-articulated. Unfortunately, some of the biggest surf stars in our community who make a very good living riding waves declined to get involved, which is disappointing.
But ultimately, it mattered little. Clearly, the council listened to its more passionate residents who surf simply for the love of it and moved forward with a decision that affects everyone.
After the past two weeks, we’ve all experienced what it is like not to be able to go in the water and enjoy the benefits of the ocean. Moving forward, the responsibility will now be largely on the surf community to regulate the crowds and respect the restrictions that still remain in place.
Yes, lifeguards and other officials will be enforcing these restrictions, but in all of the conversations I’ve had over the past couple of weeks with surfers, they’ve all made it clear that the surf community needs to be more proactive about using this tremendous resource in the most responsible way possible.
What that means is spreading out the crowds. If you have to remind other surfers in the lineup that they’re getting too close, please do so, but don’t be rude. Now is not the time to be selfish and endeavor to catch the wave of your life.
Instead, enjoy the ocean for what it offers—a place to exercise, break up the monotony of the current stay-at-home orders and get out in the sunshine. If you have to surf closeouts, or settle for bodysurfing or riding a longboard, it’s all good; anything to get in the water these days is a huge positive.
We’re a long way from getting back to normal, but thankfully, we can soon go to the beach again.