During the coronavirus pandemic, it’s better to be safe than sorry when it comes to getting in the ocean

By Jake Howard

The International Olympic Committee has officially postponed the 2020 Olympic Games. And with surfing slated to make its Olympic debut in Tokyo, and a pair of local surfers having qualified to represent the United States, this decision will have a direct impact on our area’s surfing community.

“In a USOPC conference call this morning, many logistics like athlete housing and the need to consider the international sports calendar for at least 33 Olympic sports were discussed,” said USA Surfing President Greg Cruse. “These are just two of the many considerations being dealt with within the IOC and Tokyo Organizing Committee.”

“If there is a country that could re-organize and work out the logistics of a postponement, it is Japan,” Cruse continued. “They have been running through many different scenarios and logistical options. I think we will be impressed with the resolution being worked out.”

The IOC will be looking to reschedule the Tokyo Summer Games for 2021. Further plans will be announced in the next four weeks.

This is the first time in history the Olympic Games have been postponed, and it goes without saying that we find ourselves in crazy, unprecedented times. As the COVID-19 pandemic touches all of our lives in ways we never imagined possible, here in San Clemente and Dana Point, we are blessed to have the beautiful Pacific Ocean in our backyard.

It provides both solace and an escape as we all try to wrangle with what we do now and what’s coming next.

California Gov. Gavin Newsom has put a shelter-in-place order into effect for all of the state’s 40 million residents, some of whom are surfers. But based on the crowds at the local spots over the past weekend, there’s still a lot of surfing going on.

The current order states that “people may leave their residences to engage in outdoor activity and recreation, provided that the individuals comply with social distancing requirements, including, without limitation, walking, hiking, running, cycling; use of scooters, roller skates, skateboards, or other personal mobility devices; or travel in a vehicle with household members to a location where it is possible to walk, hike, run or ride a bike, or operate personal mobility devices, while maintaining social distancing practices.”

For anyone who took a spin down to Trestles this past weekend, surfers are clearly taking advantage of the “outdoor activity” clause, but based on the size of the crowds and how impacted the lineup was, especially at Lowers, they may also be flaunting it.

“Hundreds of people from all over SoCal showing up at Trestles. (In large groups even) all weekend. Read the rules that the Governor sent out! It doesn’t say, ‘Drive out of town, up and down the freeways and look for waves!’ ” wrote resident surfboard shaper Matt Biolos on his Instagram feed. “I didn’t want to close my surf shops, shaping facilities, glass shops, warehouse … ALL ASPECTS of my business’s AND lay off dozens of employees, but I did. We did.”

As of press time, the California State Parks system has indicated it will continue to stay open. But if the rules continue to get taken advantage of, you can expect things to change.

Officials in nearby Laguna Beach have already made the move to close the beaches in their town. And in surf-rich places such as Australia and France, beaches have also been closed.

“I have been in contact with the county about the beaches, and the county, in turn, has been in contact with the state. If people do not self-quarantine and continue to congregate in public areas, particularly at beaches, my expectation is that the state (or County health official) will completely close the beaches at some point for everyone,” San Clemente Mayor Dan Bane wrote in a post to his political Facebook page.

“The city has stationed employees at the beaches to remind everyone that they must keep at least 6-feet of separation in public,” he continued. “But it is the responsibility of every San Clemente resident to do their part during this crisis. Strictly adhere to all social distancing guidelines and do not congregate in public places with people outside of your immediate household. Better yet, avoid the beaches altogether and walk your neighborhoods away from others and crowds. That is what my family is doing on a daily basis to get exercise and fresh air.”

If ever the concept of “think global, act local” was applicable, it is now. The sooner everyone hunkers down and follows the health advisories, the sooner life can, hopefully, return to normal.

We are certainly in uncharted waters at the moment, but as surfers, we understand that eventually the tide will rise, and things will improve. For the moment, play it safe, play it cool, listen to the recommendations being made by health officials and continue to hope for the best.

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comments (1)

  • Jake Howard, way to follow the herd. “It’s better to be safe than sorry”?? How about stop relying on the media for accurate information and stop using your column to offer your timid advice to the public. Everyday we hear that “experts” are pulling back their Doomsday death estimates and admitting they were presumptuous and downright WRONG about their apocalyptic forecasts. Stop telling people to avoid the beach and surfing for God’s sake. You have a responsibility as a “journalist”. Don’t be a Chicken Little.

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