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04 • 30 • 2020

Surfrider Foundation Response to Orange County Beach Closure Order

The Surfrider Foundation has a 35-year history of championing beach access and coastal recreation for all. As such, we are committed to finding effective solutions during the time of COVID-19 that protect public health and reopen closed beaches for coastal recreation as quickly and safely as possible.

After recent speculation about a potential statewide beach closure, the Surfrider Foundation was relieved to hear that California state officials have decided to leave most beaches in the state open for recreation. Unfortunately, due to recent and repeated overcrowding and disregard for physical distancing at some Orange County beaches, today the Governor explained a “hard close” of all Orange County beaches, including state parks and locally managed beaches. During a press conference on Thursday, Governor Newsom referred to the Orange County beach shutdown as a “temporary closure,” adding, “I hope it’s a very short-term adjustment.”

While Surfrider is very disappointed to see closures in our own backyard, we are heartened by the successful management strategies several other counties in the state have developed. These practices focus on a “keep it moving” ocean and coastal recreation protocol that is protective of public health.

Overcrowding at certain beaches has rightly been deemed a health threat by public health experts. Addressing that public health threat will require both effective and equitable coastal access management strategies, and public cooperation and individual compliance with the rules. 

Surfrider, along with Surfline, World Surf League, other environmental organizations, and state leaders Ian Calderon and Henry Stern, were able to help avert a broad statewide closure of beaches and surfing in California that was being recommended by state health experts. By advocating for regional solutions that focused on responsible coastal recreation with the Governor’s office, Natural Resources Agency, and State Parks we were able to help change the state's position.  Positive examples of ‘ocean and coastal recreation only’ (“keep it moving”) plans in San Diego and Ventura counties show that public health protection can be balanced with coastal recreation in a way that physical distancing can also be maintained. 

Recommendations: 

The inconsistent approaches and public confusion across California demonstrate the need for consistent statewide criteria to reopen beaches that have been closed in response to COVID-19. The Surfrider Foundation believes that plan should:

-       Protect our communities by honoring the stay-at-home order

-       Provide a phased approach based on science and public health data 

-       Emphasize coastal and ocean recreation as a priority

-       Recognize regional differences in intensity of use

-       Strive for regional consistency to avoid concentrating crowds

-       Include effective rules and enforcement to prevent overcrowding  

What actions can be taken?

Orange County residents, please ask your legislator to urge the Governor’s office, Orange County and Orange County cities to develop a beach and ocean recreation access plan similar to San Diego and Ventura counties. Let’s work together so that we can all get back in the water and on the beaches we love as soon as possible. 

For more information and updates, visit Surfrider’s resources: 

Looking ahead: when and how to safely open beaches and surfing?

Surfing and Beach Access during the peak of COVID-19

The Beach and COVID-19: Understanding the risks

Video: The Beach and COVID-19: Understanding the risks

Why the Surfrider Foundation Matters More than Ever… Community