Skip to main content

LATEST UPDATES: Tracking COVID-19 (coronavirus)

Surfing (Or Not) In The Time Of Coronavirus

Cover image for podcast episode

Show transcript

Speaker 1: 00:00 What is the coastline of San Diego County if it's not a surfing paradise? Well, we're about to find out. San Diego Del Mar, Carlsbad, Solana beach, Imperial beach, and Encinitas have shut down their beaches to slow the spread of the covert 19 virus. Here's a clip of Carlsbad police on the beach.

Speaker 2: 00:19 It takes a team. Please help us practice social distancing or out here letting everybody know

Speaker 1: 00:26 closed beaches, boardwalks and parks are a real loss for many San Diego ans who love getting out on beautiful spring days. But for surfers, banning surfing means more than losing a bit of exercise. It's a profound change of lifestyle journey me are surge to Dina mayor of Imperial beach and an avid surfer and surge. Welcome to the program.

Speaker 3: 00:49 Thanks for having me

Speaker 1: 00:51 and Scott Bass, creator of the surf report airing right here on KPBS. Scott, welcome. Thank you. And to our audience, how will the surfing ban affect you? Join the conversation at +1 888-895-5727 that's one eight eight eight eight nine five K PBS surge. How profound is this change for surfers in San Diego? And I start with you since, you know, a good deal about how beach closures affect surfers.

Speaker 3: 01:22 Yeah. Um, uh, so just to let everybody know, Imperial beach closed their speech at noon yesterday. That was a coordinated action with our lifeguards and sending a County Sheriff's department who patrol are the city of Imperial beach. Um, and that really came from the legal framework counted, uh, from the County of San Diego in terms of the social distance requirements to, uh, enact, uh, the governments, uh, the governors. Um, there's home order. So, uh, that was important to carry that out. But you know, our beach has been technically closed, uh, from the department of environmental health and County because of just absolutely extraordinary high pollution levels for months. Uh, this past winter, actually almost continuously since November, more recent closures ended up all the way to the hotel Del Coronado. So we have suffered, um, extraordinarily, uh, from the lack of access to surfing and Imperial beach and know how significant an impact it is to community health, to social cohesion, to really the basic framework of our San Diego community.

Speaker 3: 02:24 It's not just surfers, it's folks who are working out on the beach, the recreational triathletes, the swimmers, and of course our lifeguards and the whole beach and ocean community, which extends to reverberate out the counting. So yeah, we can't underestimate the impact and power that, uh, the beach has. You know, the beaches, our main street and melting pot in San Diego where we individually and collectively connect with each other and absorb and then distribute ocean feel happiness, right? Like it's hard to underestimate, uh, how important that is in San Diego and how drastically it's Imperial beach over the last few years where things have got really bad.

Speaker 1: 03:03 Scott, is it clear to the surfing community what's happening with the closed beaches and the surfing band?

Speaker 3: 03:10 I know

Speaker 1: 03:12 she's got a that's a, it's for Scott.

Speaker 4: 03:15 Yeah. Thank you. I, I don't, I don't think it is. I think that there's some ambiguity regarding messaging that the County has messaging the various municipalities have messaging. The state has messaging. Perhaps the biggest problem is that from the federal level, from the very top, at the federal level, the messaging has been inconsistent. There seems to be some trickled down regarding that inconsistency. Each local authority, lifeguard, sheriff, police, whoever it might be, is using varying degrees of discretion when applying the emergency order. So I think people are a bit confused.

Speaker 1: 03:46 Have you seen surfers out today on closed beaches?

Speaker 4: 03:51 I have seen plenty of surfers in the water. Um, at lower Trestles, which is the Northern boundary of San Diego County. There's as we speak, 35 surfers in the water. That's a state lifeguard run beach, uh, Oceanside Harbor, which is run by the Oceanside city lifeguards. There are plenty of surfers in the water there. Of course, San Diego city beaches, mission beach, Pacific beach, the central beaches are closed.

Speaker 3: 04:16 Mmm.

Speaker 4: 04:17 And I have seen that where they're open, there are plenty of surfers and when they're, where they are closed, there are no sir.

Speaker 1: 04:23 Okay. All right. Then. You know, search, we don't tend to think of surfers with having a lot of close contact. So why are city officials keeping surfers off the beach and out of the water?

Speaker 3: 04:34 Um, what, what happened was I think, um, uh, and I don't want to think Corey Schumacher of Carlsbad for really alerting me to this issue of countywide. And then I talked to our state parks director for San Diego County this week as well. And we were getting reports on the weekend rum of people that were in the water and more importantly on the beach, what, what became would've been a normal signing spring weekend with, you know, just normal recreational beach goers. We haven't, you know, late winter, early spring was absolutely like summer, like conditions, but it was Tory's Torrey Pines, Damar, Carlsbad, Imperial beach, and if you're a beach, we had 20 or 30 guys in the water surfing even though, I mean the pollution levels were extraordinary high. I think everybody sort of woke up on Monday and the city of San Diego, I'm realizing a situation they couldn't control in terms of uh, making sure people were practicing. Um, I call it physical distancing and rather than social distancing our requirements and that we had to really address that issue. Those are similar issues that we saw. A lot of us are on Facebook with our friends in Spain and France or surf and real. And we saw early on the East coast in the United States and then in Europe they were closing beaches on, I think the world surf league and surf line took a very Proctor response and being trying to be responsible

Speaker 4: 05:46 as you can.

Speaker 3: 05:48 I think you're seeing messaging for pro surfers around the world on why staying at home is critical in surfing right now isn't so critical. But it was very that the overwhelming public sort of at the beach was really giving lifeguards and, and law enforcement agencies with some concerns about how to really address this

Speaker 1: 06:08 surge. You mentioned Corey Schumacher and she's on the line with us now. She is a three times world world longboard champion surfer, also a member of the Carlsbad city council. And Corey, welcome to the program. Thank you so much for having me. Marine. Now the city of Carlsbad is closed its beaches, but does that also apply to Carlsbad state beach? Uh, it does not currently apply to state beaches. And I think that speaks to some of what Scott was talking about, which is this inconsistency in messaging. Um, we have submitted an official request to the state, um, encouraging, uh, strongly advising and, and asking them to close beaches as well as to provide us with, um, additional Rangers to help us to patrol the beaches. [inaudible] Corey is the city prepared to issue fines for violators? Uh, currently we're really focused in on educating folks and encouraging them.

Speaker 1: 07:03 We don't want to, um, go the additional distance, but in order to protect, uh, our community we are willing to, to, to head there. And, and speaking of that community, what kind of response have you received from this shutdown from constituents and surfers? So the response is actually, um, I think Ben good, uh, supportive of, of our actions. And a lot of that has to do with the fact that so many folks did, um, see over the weekend the thousands of individuals who packed our beaches and our, our boardwalk and our seawall. And, um, people were encouraging us, um, to shut down the beaches because they were aware that this is wasn't the protocol and it was physically impossible for folks to actually hit those marks when it comes to social distancing. So we have had some pushback from, um, I have had surfers who, who don't quite understand why they can't just cross over the beach and go for a quick surf. Um, but the majority of folks here have been very supportive of our proactive actions to close down beaches. Ah, thank you very much Corey, for joining us. I appreciate your, your information and we are taking a listener calls at +1 888-895-5727. We have a caller on the line right now and welcome to midday edition.

Speaker 5: 08:26 Yeah. Hi, this is Dr. Kent Layton. Hi. I just wanted to say surfing's a feeling that a lot of people don't understand unless they've done it. I've been in the surfing for about 45 years now. My daughter's at UCFC getting her master's degree in engineering and if she doesn't have surfing, she would have a lot more difficulty. Just coping with the world.

Speaker 1: 08:45 Well, I appreciate the phone call. I know a lot of people feel like that, don't they surge.

Speaker 3: 08:50 Yeah. And you know, I think for a lot of, uh, folks, this is really a wake up call that this crisis is real. I think for a lot of us, you know, the idea of escaping to the beach and escaping from the reality arm and the crisis that we're addressing is slow rolling disaster that's impacting every state in the country and nations around the world allowed us to escape. And I think the closure of our beaches is sort of, uh, really, uh,

Speaker 6: 09:15 really

Speaker 3: 09:15 gotten to people that understand that this is a real issue that we have to address and we're all in this together. So it was definitely a big wake up call. And I just wanted to remind our listeners, this happened in 1918 when we had the Spanish influenza and San Diego officials have to quarantine beaches and issue a quarantines or business community. And unfortunately they lifted it too soon. And, uh, the father of one of the fathers of modern surfing, George freeze the life carving. And swimming along with Duke Kahanamoku actually ended up dying in San Diego. He helped develop lifeguarding in Southern California because of the Spanish influence of April, 1919. So we've seen this before and it's unfortunate that it's happening again and that we have to carry out these, uh, these measures to protect public health and safety.

Speaker 1: 10:00 Well, you know, Scott, I want to ask you, it's, it's not just a, a lifestyle thing. It's an economic thing for San Diego. What's the economic impatent pact of shutting down surfing in San Diego?

Speaker 6: 10:13 Okay.

Speaker 4: 10:13 Well, you know, it's going to be huge from the retail level, of course, we have a bunch of great surf shops up and down the coast and San Diego County is the surfboard manufacturing industry hub and it's been that way since the 60s with Gordon and Smith and the up in Oceanside on airport road. We have a big support industry there too as well. So, um, it's going to be felt far and deep, just like, um, you know, the rest of the economy is going to feel it.

Speaker 1: 10:40 And joining us on the phone is Randy Strunk, he's owner of Pacific beach surf shop. And Randy, welcome to the program.

Speaker 6: 10:48 Hello. Thanks for having me.

Speaker 1: 10:50 Did this beach closure and surfing band come as a complete surprise or did you suspect we might see something like this?

Speaker 7: 10:57 Wow.

Speaker 1: 11:02 Hi Randy. I can barely hear you. Can you speak up a little bit?

Speaker 6: 11:06 You can. Uh, I think a lot of us saw the same thing our city officials saw and I'm glad they acted very quickly. You know, the beach communities are very dense and, um, you have the virus where it has start to dot the community. It would spread quickly. And, um, and I think we have an example from the ski resorts in Colorado that had closed a couple of weeks before and they actually even banned cross country skiing because the virus, um, as soon as it takes hold, it spreads. And this is a safety issue for our community.

Speaker 1: 11:45 Do you have any sense how long the beach closures might remain in effect? Randy?

Speaker 6: 11:52 I don't, I, uh, you know, uh, I'm gonna think most of April. Um, you know, possibly they could reopen a midday. I, you know, uh, our city officials will have to make that call. And I, and I think it's, um, just like dr [inaudible] said, you know, they're, they're monitoring this hourly and daily and any date that is put out there is, is only that, it, it, it could change.

Speaker 1: 12:19 Are you getting any help from the city? I understand you had a conference call this morning with city officials.

Speaker 6: 12:25 Yeah. We're, um, in conversation with them and we will find out all the SERPs schools, um, at it, uh, you know, collaboratively have talked to this city and, um, and we'll find out the city's open and we're in a relationship and a partnership with the city. So I think they have a better understanding. Now

Speaker 1: 12:47 you're taking this like a mellow surfer, Randy.

Speaker 6: 12:54 I, I think, uh, you know, uh, I think in the end we'll, uh, we'll still have a summer and, uh, it'll be a smaller summer. Uh, but, uh, um, you're right. I'm kinda, um, I think we're going to be okay. I have to admit, over the 25 years I've had the surf shop, I've managed to get it into trouble financially, all on my own.

Speaker 1: 13:21 I think this is a great, great note to leave it on. I and I, I want to thank you all, Randy Strunk and, uh, mayor Dudina, uh, Scott Bass, creed of the KPBS surf report. Thank you all for, for speaking with us about this. I appreciate it.

Speaker 6: 13:38 Thank you so much.

Speaker 8: 13:57 [inaudible].

As beaches in San Diego County close down, what's a dedicated surfer to do? And what kind of place is San Diego without its surfers?

KPBS Midday Edition Segments podcast branding

KPBS Midday Edition Segments

Maureen Cavanaugh and Jade Hindmon host KPBS Midday Edition, a daily radio news magazine keeping San Diego in the know on everything from politics to the arts.