Stab Magazine | In Case You Were Wondering, Lowers Is Still Crowded

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In Case You Were Wondering, Lowers Is Still Crowded

A personal account from the San Clemente lockdown zone.

news // Mar 19, 2020
Words by stab
Reading Time: 3 minutes

Judging by the guy that back-paddled me at Uppers this morning, surfers aren’t paying a whole hell of a lot of attention to social distancing.

Yesterday, it was announced that Orange County, California—like a lot of other parts of the U.S.—was going into full lockdown mode. All public and private gatherings are currently prohibited. People are only allowed out for essential things like runs to the pharmacy or grocery store…or to pick up a freshie in the Surf Ghetto.

“We’re not running out of food and people have been very nice through all of this,” noted my grocery clerk yesterday as I was picking up some “essential” supplies (i.e. beer).

Bars and restaurants have either closed or will be open for take-out or delivery service only. My daughter’s school is closed at least until April 13th, which at this point doesn’t sound long enough. There’s talk of school being canceled for the rest of the year and kids will have to be homeschooled. Of course, considering how many aspiring grommets there are in town that already homeschooled, that’s probably not the biggest inconvenience. 

The streets are quiet and the vibes are creepy. Despite all of this, surfers are clearly gonna surf. 

Dodging schizophrenic weather patterns this week with everything from wind and rain to much-appreciated sunshine, there have actually been some fun waves at the local spots and the resident scene appears undeterred. At the moment, a fun-sized southwest swell is running, putting the surf in the stomach- to shoulder-high zone and the only place people are feeling safe is in the water.

“Shit’s weird right now, really weird, but I had to get out have a paddle this morning before more weather came and we’re not allowed to leave our homes at all,” one guy told me this morning.

At Uppers the crowds were lighter than normal, but there were still a couple dozen folks in the water. The mood in the lineup was tempered, but still annoyingly competitive as Uppers tends to be. Down the beach at Lowers, it was still shoulder-to-shoulder with a steady stream of electric bikes buzzing about the point. And in town at T Street, the peak probably had 20-plus people on it at 8:00am.

As far as personal precautions go, I decided to wear my 4/3 this morning instead of my leaky 3/2 just to stay a little warmer as it’s definitely not a good time to catch a cold. I also kept my session to about an hour just because I figured once I scratched the itch there wasn’t much use in belaboring the point. And I opted to sit inside of the pack and pick off the smaller waves that were going through uncontested, just to avoid the humans and get the wave count up in an expeditious manor. None of that probably mattered, but it’s where my head was at.

The Trestles zone attracts a lot of people from out of town, and what was noticeable is that a lot of those people aren’t around. The Japanese surf tourists have largely vanished. The bros from San Diego and L.A. appear to be hunkered down at their local. So, things are definitely quieter, but with most people home from work and school, there were still plenty of people paddling out.

It remains to be seen how much longer these casual beach missions will last. In a lot of places in Europe, the beach is banned as people endure a much more stringent lockdown. A report from a friend in the Maldives today indicated everything there is shut down and there’s no swimming or surfing allowed. 

Given that things here seem to be changing by the hour, we’ll see what happens next, but I’m glad I got my surf in this morning.


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