Photo by Nick Fewings

We were doing ok, we were doing alright. That was until last Friday, when LA County closed the beaches.

We are being told to stay home for an indefinite amount of time, restricted from the comfort of being with our friends and family, reduced to unemployment by being labeled “non-essential”, prohibited from

gathering in our churches, schools, local eateries, stores, and our gyms.

For the sake of our families, community, and world, we complied. At least we still had one thing to look forward to: surf.

Surf- the ocean that washes away the anxiety of today and tomorrow and the fun challenge of a sport that brings an irreplaceable bliss that lingers throughout the lonely day. The happy-tired feeling of exhausting play that brings true rest at night, despite the circumstances of the troubled world.

That was until recently. In what little we had left, our last joy of surfing has also been taken from us.

“Indefinitely”.

For all surfers, this is devastating. More crushing than when we were laid off and more defeating than self-isolation. If only our leaders could understand more about surfing and its many benefits, maybe, just maybe, they would open our oceans to us once again.

Perhaps if they knew that surfing is a solitary sport, they would change their minds. If they saw the lineup they’d notice everyone follows the 6 feet apart rule. And only one person per wave, that’s the unspoken law. We don’t congregate before we surf because we’re just trying to get in the water and we don’t congregate after- we’re cold and hungry and want to go home and shower.

Maybe if the County and the Department of Public Health knew how physically and mentally beneficial surfing was, they’d let us surfers surf. Salt water is filled with magnesium and is good for our bones, muscles, nerves, heart health and helps to regulate blood pressure. The regular exercise of surfing strengthens our immune and respiratory systems- extremely important in times like these.

Our leaders have probably read the articles about how suicide hotlines across the country are reporting a startling increase in calls since the new social distancing requirements, but they might not realize that surfing reduces symptoms of depression, anxiety, physiological stress, and improves moods. What we call “stoke” science calls serotonin, endorphins, and dopamine.

We ache to feel that stoke again. We are being told to “stay safe, stay healthy”, but our ability to care for our own basic physical and mental needs have been closed with the access to the ocean.

It is with a desperate hope that the County and the Department of Public Health will come to understand how safe and how essential surfing is to the wellbeing of the community. We urge you, our leaders, to give us some shred of light in our extremely bleak future. We’ve had everything taken away. Please, at least let us surf.

Allegra Scribner

Santa Monica

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10 Comments

  1. Nurses, doctors, paramedics, EMT’s, and all other hospital staff around the country and around the planet are risking their lives right now to save those who are at risk of dying. If they contract the virus and die, they’ll never be able to enjoy the things they love ever again.

    They’re asking you to make a sacrifice for a few weeks. It won’t kill you if you miss out on surfing for a short time. It might kill them if we keep unknowingly transmitting this disease to others. Please look at the bigger picture.

  2. @Atthe age of 65 I started surfing when I was 10. The feeling of being in the ocean and riding a wave is like no other. I saw Malibu and Topanga going off yesterday on Surfline with no one out and it made me sad, but I also saw Sunset Point and Cardiff Reef going off with lots of people out and it made me sadder. We have to hang up the wetsuit for a while until this passes for what is best for all. There has never been a day at Malibu where the vibe is heavy and guys are pushing others off the waves for shoulder hopping. Yes surfing an isolated wave is the answer but those days are few and far between unless you want to venture up to northern California and brave the cold. If we hang tight and play by the rules we have a better chance of changing our lives and future for the better. The Aloha spirit must prevail.

  3. I live at the beach, and I would love to walk there just as much as you love to surf.. I no longer take my twice daily walk on the beach. I understand that if I walk, others will want to walk. If you surf, others will want to go into the water.
    So we can’t walk; we can’t surf. What we can do is stay home and isolate ourselves as much as possible.
    We must give up the things we love, so the people we love will be safe.

  4. If the beaches are closed, they are closed to everyone. No exceptions. It sends the wrong message to the public if the Surfers are allowed to use the beach. Simple stuff get it through your heads.

  5. Allegra, your words express a vital human need — to release stress in a healthy way. Scientific journals are filled with study after study demonstrating the role of such release as a major contributor to physical and emotional wellbeing.

    As a Therapeutic Recreation Specialist, I have witnessed the positive effects that recreation and leisure activities provide. In my opinion, the County’s emphasis on extreme closures — rather than enforcement of social distancing — is leading us in a bad direction. Public health authorities’ single-minded pursuit of COVID-19 (at the expense of everything else in society) is unbalanced and unrealistic. Along with virus-control efforts, the authorities must once again permit access to healthy, responsible activities. If not, we risk LONG LASTING consequences to our society’s physical and mental health.

  6. Although I can understand your grief I also love the ocean grew up body surfing and surfing but do you really feel it’s fair for 1 group to have all their enjoyment while others forfeit theirs. I don’t.
    I’d love to walk the ocean or sit and watch the waves but I can’t.
    We are all in this together and together we must remain vigilant to protect all.

  7. Well said, Allegra. This whole surf ban came from Florida, after they had 2 huge Spring Break parties, and then banned everyone from the beach. They thoughtlessly included surfers. Then it quickly spiralled out to the rest of the country, no one giving a thought to the considerations you raise here. The virus doesn’t survive in salt water. It’s a useless ban from thoughtless officials who do not understand the dynamics of surfing. They just assume we’ll have a crowd around us at the beach. As Jed Noll said, “It’s like getting firewood, you grab it and go home”.

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