A wave of headlines hit Southern California beaches in 2020 – Orange County Register

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Southern California beaches, the hundreds of miles of coastline that are one of the defining features of the Golden State, weren’t just a place in 2020 to bathe in the cool ocean or spread a towel and relax. on the hot sand.

In 2020, the coastline has become a reflection of how Southern Californians have faced and responded to the coronavirus pandemic that has changed our culture this year.

In some coastal towns, beaches were the line in the sand drawn by those who argued that people needed a place to get out of government orders meant to keep the crowds at bay.

But the beaches also became a seemingly magical place for several weeks as the ocean waters turned neon blue at night, a rare bioluminescence phenomenon adding a spark of excitement to the monotony of staying home.

With the closure of sports for young people and people with more free time, surfing has surged. And as a cheap option for entertainment, beaches have become an even more popular playground – but with those crowds has come garbage, much of which has been abandoned.

Here are some of the main stories that touched our coastline in 2020:

A sign on the beach informs visitors that Seal Beach Pier and Seal Beach are now closed to the public due to coronavirus concerns and the gathering of large numbers of people in public areas on Tuesday, March 24, 2020 (Photo by Mark Rightmire, Orange County Register / SCNG)

Battle at the beach

The beaches were barren for days and even weeks earlier this year, more like a desert with miles of empty sand.

When the state’s stay-at-home order fell in March, Los Angeles County ordered its beaches to be closed, and Long Beach, Seal Beach and Laguna Beach followed suit.

Not everyone wanted to comply, and at least one surfer was cited as an example when police encountered him on the sands in Manhattan Beach. In Malibu, a standing paddler was seen on video escaping a police boat until he failed to do so and was arrested by officers.

Some beaches have remained open with “soft closures,” closing parking lots to discourage visitors outside the nearby community, while still allowing people to use the coast.

And then the term “active recreation” entered our lexicon, the mantra adopted by officials who didn’t want to close access to escape indoors, but also didn’t want beachgoers hanging out or hanging out. sunbathe near others. Don’t build sandcastles with your kids. You had to exercise with only a handful of things to do, like walking, jogging, or surfing.

With different jurisdictions managing various stretches of coast, the rules about what was allowed and what was not were beyond comprehension. Beaches that remained open in Orange County were inundated with outsiders who couldn’t make it to their own local beaches.

At the end of April, Governor Gavin Newsom ordered the permanent closure of all beaches in Orange County.

Huntington Beach and Dana Point have gone to court over the orders, supported by Newport Beach, but the judge sided with the governor’s order in council. And less than a week after the shutdown, cities had made plans with the state and reopened with those “active recreation” rules in place.

For the rest of the summer, with the exception of a temporary closure of most beaches over the weekend of July 4, the beaches have been left open – and remain open – for people to enjoy.

Dozens of surfers hit the waves at Doheny State Beach in Dana Point on Wednesday, September 16, 2020. Surfing is more popular than ever, with crowded lines along the coast, especially this year due to the pandemic sent active people looking for fresh air to the beach. (Photo by Leonard Ortiz, Orange County Register / SCNG)

A popular option

When businesses started to reopen, one industry saw its customers pouring in – surfboards were flying off the racks of surf shops.

It was an unexpected bright spot in the pandemic, as people wanted to get out, but had few options. New surfers flocked to the ocean to try and ride the waves in a place where they felt safe.

The rise in popularity was not without its drawbacks, long-time surfers scoffed at the influx of newbies with whom they had to share waves at their favorite surf spots.

More people at the beach, not just in the water but on the sand, have created another problem, an increase in waste from take-out food and face masks littering the beach.

A beach clean-up in September ranked take-out items in the Top 10 found garbage for the first time in years. Face masks and gloves have also joined the list of the most commonly removed waste.

The problem was not only caused by the intentional litter, but so many people flocked to the beach that workers couldn’t keep up with the overflowing trash cans. In Los Angeles County, a “pack in, pack out” marketing message has been launched to encourage people to take their garbage with them when they leave the beach.

Waves of bright neon have appeared off the southern California coast this year, this photo of Manhattan Beach Pier. (Photo courtesy of Mark Girardeau)

A neon light spot

The first few days of the shutdown were downright depressing for those trapped at home – but a mysterious glowing ocean gave people something to marvel at.

A bioluminescent algal bloom appeared for more than a month just weeks after the early stay-at-home order, one of the largest of its kind off local waters for about a decade. The rare phenomenon makes the ocean red during the day, but makes the waves shine at night.

It was not easy to follow, each night the currents moved the sea, sometimes making the glow strong from Huntington Beach to San Clemente, other nights in the South Bay, where the beaches were closed but people were watching from the boardwalk as the ethereal blue waves crashed to the ground.

Photographers and videographers have captured stunning images, ranging from glowing dolphins following a boat to the neon ripples of an ocean cannonball.

The bright blue waves were beautiful, providing people with a much needed distraction, something to look for, an adventure in the midst of the monotony that came with orders to stay home. Each night, the buzz grew as viewers attempted to space out on the sand to see it with their own eyes, catching a glimpse of Mother Nature’s light show.

And then after more than a month, the glowing waves disappeared into the pitch black night.

Resumption of surfing competitions

Professional surfing was suspended for most of the year until a few weeks ago, when the world’s best athletes faced off in Hawaii.

In true 2020 fashion, it wasn’t an easy race for the contest. The women’s event was suspended and then moved to another island after a recreational surfer was killed by a shark near the Maui contest site.

The men’s Pipeline event on the north coast of Oahu has also been suspended after a few positive cases of the coronavirus surfaced through the ranks of the World Surf League.

But when it picked up, the action continued with Hawaii’s John John Florence finally claiming the prestigious Pipe Masters victory on his home break. Tyler Wright clinched a historic victory in what became Pipeline’s first-ever women’s event.

Professional surfing will have a new format at the start of the competitive year, including the return of an event at Lower Trestles south of San Clemente. And, it won’t be just any popular beach contest, but a final winning surf-off event that will determine next year’s champion.

Surfing will hopefully also make its Olympic debut, following the postponement of the Tokyo Games scheduled for last summer. There will be plenty to cheer on, including the United States team, represented by Florence and fellow Hawaiian Carissa Moore, as well as Caroline Marks, a Florida native and San Clemente resident, and Kolohe Andino of San Clemente.


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