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‘I just feel like I got my life back’: Ocean Beach welcomes surfers, swimmers and walkers back to the beach

Visitors to the coastline in Ocean Beach keep their distance from one another after San Diego beaches reopened for limited use after being closed for roughly a month to prevent crowds amid the coronavirus outbreak.
(Savanah Duffy)

After more than a month of beach closures to prevent gatherings during the coronavirus pandemic, Ocean Beach welcomed the return of exuberant surfers, dog walkers and coastline strollers as beaches reopened around San Diego for limited use.

On a visit soon after the April 27 reopening, it appeared that, for the most part, residents and visitors in Ocean Beach were following city and county guidelines for permitted behavior, notably that beach-goers maintain physical distancing and not gather, sit or lie on the sand (see a complete list below).

Beach lovers got more good news April 30 when Gov. Gavin Newsom ordered beaches in Orange County to close until further notice but did not close all beaches in the state, as a memo to the state’s police chiefs the day before indicated he might.

California Gov. Gavin Newsom has ordered beaches in Orange County to close until further notice, though he did not close all beaches in the state. The announcement Thursday came three days after San Diego reopened city beaches after a roughly month-long closure.

“The only way beaches can reopen and stay open is if the regulations developed by public health officials and regional lifeguards are followed,” Mayor Kevin Faulconer said in a news conference April 27. “Public health concerns from overcrowding led to the closure of beaches in the first place back in March, and decisions will continue to be made with the goal of protecting the well-being of every San Diegan.”

Sarah Heilman and Rachel Edmonds paused during a jog along the beach to chat with the Point Loma-OB Monthly. They said they had visited Pacific Beach the day beaches reopened and found a much more crowded atmosphere than in OB.

“It was a little concerning, but this one looks good,” Heilman said.

“I just hope that people don’t ruin it now that the beaches and parks are opening back up,” Edmonds added.

Faulconer emphasized that “we do not want overcrowding, we cannot have that. ... We do not want to give back the gains that we have sacrificed so hard.”

Emy Mills, on a walk with her daughters Eloise and Ema in Ocean Beach, said, “Honestly, I feel safer being out here at the beach than at a grocery store.”
(Savanah Duffy)

With everyone on the beach spread out for physical distancing, Emy Mills, who was on a walk to get fresh air with her daughters Eloise and Ema, said: “Honestly, I feel safer being out here at the beach than at a grocery store.”

Michael and Molly O’Leary were in OB to go skimboarding with Kylie Young and Eddy Brown. “As long as the beach looks like it does right now, I have absolutely zero concerns about masks. Just maintain your distance,” Michael said.

Michael and Molly O’Leary go skimboarding in Ocean Beach with Kylie Young and Eddy Brown.
(Savanah Duffy)

The limited use is the first in a two-phase plan to fully reopen the beaches. An implementation date for the second phase of beach, bay and ocean reopenings in the city of San Diego will be decided with county public health officials.

“I just feel like I got my life back,” surfer Marcello Braz said, with a surfboard tucked under one arm. “I feel safe. I’m not gonna be close to anyone.”

“The day started with some large water crowds but then thinned out,” lifeguard chief James Gartland said during the first day of the beach reopenings. “We got great compliance from the beach community and the surf community. ... We are out there in full effect and the beaches are safe.”

While on a stroll together , Jane Richmond and John Finch said social distancing might not be enough to protect everyone.

“There’s so much air that six feet might not be enough distance because everything is being carried on the air,” Richmond said.

“We’re being cognizant of if we’re downwind from people,” Finch added.

John Finch and Jane Richmond go for a stroll along the sand in Ocean Beach.
(Savanah Duffy)

Vincent Garcia, who lives down the street from Dog Beach, said, “I think it’s great [that the beaches reopened], especially for OB, economy and business-wise.”

Marcia Pistotti and her children Nalu and Phoenix visit Ocean Beach. "The beach is our sanctuary," Pistotti said.
Marcia Pistotti and her children Nalu and Phoenix visit Ocean Beach. “The beach is our sanctuary,” Pistotti said.
(Savanah Duffy)

Marcia Pistotti, who was out for a bike ride with her children Nalu and Phoenix, said she felt people were following the guidelines “for the most part. And I think the lifeguards help the people who aren’t to be reminded of the rules.”

“I’m really happy to be able to get out in nature. We live here in OB, and the beach is our sanctuary,” she said. “It’s a great stress relief and so much fun for the kids.”

Rules for beach access

Oceans: Only swimming, surfing and single-person paddleboarding and kayaking are allowed.

Beaches and shorelines: Only walking and running are allowed. No stopping, sitting or lying down.

Closed: Boardwalks, piers, parking lots

Not permitted: Gatherings, activities without physical distancing, boating


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