In an official letter released by the town of Little Coronado, California’s mayor, Rich Bailey, and headlined, Can We All Agree That Surfing Should Not Be a Crime, the mayor writes:
“A viral video from earlier this week shows a lone surfer, in the ocean near La Jolla, fleeing the water as multiple law enforcement officials chase him down in a powerboat. As the surfer exits the waves and runs up the sandy bluff, dozens of spectators are seen cheering on his display of civil disobedience.
Since when did catching a wave turn into an illegal activity worthy of a $1,000 fine and a misdemeanor?”
Although state and county health officials have credited social distancing for reducing the spread of Covid-19 in our region, effective April 10, county health officials made it illegal to participate in a variety of activities, regardless of whether social distancing was possible, including surfing.
With rare exception, the public has practiced social distancing as part of the collective effort to protect our most vulnerable population. The success of these efforts is evidenced by the low case and hospitalization rate in San Diego county. However, the latest county health order is unreasonable threatens to erode the public’s trust and compliance.
In addition to turning lone surfers into criminals, the county health order also criminalized fishing alone on your boat, paddle boarding in the bay, and even watching a sunset from your car.
For a policy to be effective, it must be evenly applied, logically sound, and in the public’s best interest.
If social distancing can be maintained, does it really matter if you are social distancing in the ocean or on land? Does it make a difference if you are six feet apart from one another while walking on the sidewalk versus walking on the beach?
If you are catching fish from your boat, are you more of a danger to the public’s health than buying fish at the grocery store?
Of course not. Six feet is six feet.
Enforcement of these prohibitions is not in the public’s interest. These orders are an abuse of power that infringe on basic civil liberties and defy common sense while putting the health of the public and enforcement officers at risk.
The public deserves to be treated with trust and respect. Policies that are arbitrary, inconsistently applied, and criminalize harmless activities erode the public’s trust.
As politicians, economists, and health officials begin to deliberate on how to safely reopen the county and state, many consequential decisions will be made with lives and livelihoods hanging in the balance.
Before we get too far ahead of ourselves, can we at least agree that surfing should not be a crime?
Is the mayor right in his criticism that local law enforcement has gone too far, to punish individuals for a frivolous activity like surfing?