Beachgoers hit surf and sand at L.A

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beaches — but official opening has yet to be announced

Surfers got their boards and bodies wet. Strollers got sand between their toes. The smell of salty sea air was blocked only by the required face masks.

Whether Los Angeles County beaches were actually open was a murky subject — but if they were not, some beachgoers didn’t get the memo.

The county’s public health director is expected to announce the beach openings sometime Wednesday, May 13, according to an LA County supervisor’s spokesperson. But it’s not clear if the order will go into effect immediately; under current health orders, put in place the stem the spread of the coronavirus, the county’s beaches are to remain closed until Friday.

That order had not yet come as of Wednesday morning. But a notice on the county’s Department of Beaches and Harbors website said the shoreline was open, for active use only.

Regardless, surf-starved wave riders hit the water early in the morning, from Palos Verdes to Malibu, to take advantage of a swell that’s been hitting Southern California beaches for days, with 3-4 foot waves still hanging around. Strollers and joggers found wide stretches of sandy beach to get their morning work out on the sand.

Walkers at Torrance Beach enjoy an early morning stroll the day the county health officer was expected to lift beach closures in Los Angeles County, Wednesday, May 13, 2020.

Walkers at Torrance Beach enjoy an early morning stroll the day the county health officer was expected to lift beach closures in Los Angeles County, Wednesday, May 13, 2020.
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Long Beach’s stretches of sand, along with Rosie’s Dog Beach, were officially back in action, though, with the city making the official announcement Tuesday that they would open it beaches for active uses only after the six-week closure. The opening of the sand adds to the boardwalk and bike path opening earlier in the week.

As the sun rose over Torrance Beach, workers for the Department of Beaches and Harbors removed the yellow caution tape that cordoned off pathways down to the sand.

Near the Palos Verdes Peninsula, just a handful of surfers braved the choppy waters that were still smelling from the recent red tide event. These were not ideal surf conditions — but after weeks of being surf starved and cut off from the coast, it would work.

Ken and Denise Vroom, South Bay residents since 1979, were at the shoreline early for a walk, face masks in tow, a rule the county’s order will likely include, officials have said.

It’s been a real challenge, Ken Vroom said, not being able to use the walkways and the beach for the last six weeks. They live across the street, he said.

The husband said he was hopeful the phased-in health order to allow only active uses would work. Active uses, under the pending order, will include walking, running, swimming and surfing, with gatherings of any kind still banned. Folks also won’t be able to bring a towel down to sunbathe or umbrellas and coolers for a beach day — you have to keep moving. Other activities like volleyball will also be banned also prohibited.

“We hope it’s not going to be Florida,” Ken Vroom said. “At least we have the parking lots closed. That should keep a lot of people away. We hope to keep it to just the locals.”

The Vrooms are part of King’s Harbor Beach Church, which meets on the sand below Avenue H every Sunday. But, for now, that’s not permitted, he said.

Two surfers, who have been sneaking onto the beach for weeks, declined to be interviewed.

At the north end of Torrance Beach, about a dozen kids were in the water, a rarity for a school-day morning. But with school out, it means more time to surf.

A sea lion pup flopped onto the wet sand at the shoreline below Avenue C. Then, realizing there were people out again, headed back into the surf.

With people now allowed back on the beaches, county officials are trying to ensure visitors still maintain social distancing and other health guidelines.

When not in the water and around other people, for example, beachgoers will have to wear masks, said Nicole Mooradian, spokesperson for LA County Department of Beaches and Harbors.

The face covering requirement, Mooradian added, includes runners and surfers on land, to help prevent the spread of the coronavirus, which forced public officials to close the beaches in March.

Surfers, meanwhile, would do best to leave their face coverings on the shore and put it on after exiting the water. Surfers who do not bring a mask have the option of staying 10 feet from others as they cross and exit the beach, Mooradian said.

The Strand, the piers, bike path, Esplanade and concrete walkways will remain closed during this initial phase, but may open during phase two, officials have said. Manhattan Beach and Redondo Beach parking lots will remain closed, according to officials.
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Hermosa Beach, which owns its beach, will likely follow the county’s orders and open its stretch of shoreline. Hermosa Beach parking lots will be open, but with time limits to discourage all-day activity.

But that city did open the beach bike and pedestrian path on Monday.

In Manhattan Beach, a handful of surfers bobbed in the water just north of the pier Wednesday, waiting for sets to roll in, while joggers passed by the sand. It was the same scene in Hermosa Beach, as strollers and runners found wide open spaces on the sand to get their morning workout.

Surfers founds space to spread out at El Porto, in north Manhattan Beach, waiting for the 3-4 foot waves to roll in toward shore. The most crowded surf spot on the coast was Malibu, at the famed First Point surf break just north of the pier, where 50 or so surfers packed the line up waiting for waves.
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