Kevin Cody

Manhattan Beach surfer issued possible $1,000 citation for violating beach closure order

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A surfer in Manhattan Beach is issued a citation costing up to $1,000 Saturday morning for refusing to comply with beach closure order. 

by Kevin Cody

[Updated Sunday, March 29]

A  Manhattan Beach surfer was issued a citation that carries a fine of up to $1,000 Saturday morning, after ignoring a Los Angeles County Lifeguard’s order that he not go in the water.

“Go ahead and arrest me,” the surfer told the lifeguard before launching into what the lifeguard described as “colorful language.” The surfer then went in the water, prompting the lifeguard to call his supervisor Captain Jeff Horn, who called Manhattan police, who were patrolling the beach. 

A Manhattan Beach code enforcement officer arrived with a police officer and issued the surfer the citation. Lifeguards do not have citation issuing authority.

All Los Angeles County beaches were ordered closed on Saturday, for an indefinite duration, to deter the spread of the novel coronavirus. The Los Angeles County code defines beaches to include the ocean within 1,000 feet of the shoreline, effectively banning not only surfers who cross the beach to reach the surf, but also those who arrive by boat, Horn said.

“This is the first time I have ever seen South Bay Beaches empty,” said Rancho Palos Verdes residident Kerry Welsh, who took this photo from his back yard.

“Lifeguards are just as disappointed as everyone else to see the beaches closed. The beach is our home, where we play and where we work. But it’s for the common good and it’s temporary,” Horn said.

Despite the closure order, when Horn arrived at work at 7 a.m. he estimated there were 150 surfers in the water between the Manhattan Beach pier and the El Segundo Jetty. He said the bike path and The Strand were similarly crowded, with joggers, bicyclists and families pushing strollers.

“Local surfers know lifeguards can’t issue citations. So when we told them not to go in the water they ignored us. When we told people on The Strand to leave, they pointed to the surfers and they ignored us,” Horn said. 

“People didn’t comply until the police arrived and ordered the water, beach and The Strand cleared over their bullhorns. Then, everyone, including the surfers left.”

The surfer who was cited came to the beach, shortly before 11 a.m., after the water and beach had been cleared.

Manhattan Beach Police Sergeant Steve Kitsios said Saturday afternoon that no other beach closure violators had been cited and that his department is relying on voluntary compliance.

Hermosa Beach Police Chief Michael McCrary said Thursday, that his officers also are counting on voluntary compliance with the beach closure order, but will issue misdemeanor citations to people who ignore the order.

Surfers on social media expressed general disapproval of the Manhattan Beach surfer’s response to being ordered not to surf. But most also expressed disapproval of the beach closure order.

Longtime South Bay surfer Chris Bredesen, who abided by the beach closure order and has not surfed since its passage, expressed his view in a tongue-in-cheek Facebook post: “I support social distancing (for a certain amount of time) and we are all going to get through this. But (and don’t even think about responding if you’re not a surfer, because remember, we have to rely on the experts) to put a ban on surfing or long-distance swimming or paddling is wrong. If you’re looking for an expert, you found him. When I am surfing, stay away from me. No one is ever near me, I am so greedy. Stay off my waves, get out of the way, and don’t even think of talking to me because I know you’re trying to get me off my game and miss the next set …. In all seriousness, social distancing is 100 percent better surfing than going to the market, running, etc … These are facts. From an expert.” ER

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