COVID, Crowds, & Cooperation

Posted on November 06 2020

Crowds at surf spots have always been a point of contention in the community. Having to compete for wave time and figuring out how to dodge everyone on the inside can detract from the whole “tune-out-and-connect-with-nature" thing. Hence the heckling and localism common to the sport. These days, crowds are even more of an issue as it seems the pandemic has actually increased the number of people in the water. This season has been busier than ever at the shop. It seems with work from home, more people are able to be out in the water at more times of day, more days of the week. And, people are itching to get outside.  

In Washington, this has played out in some frustrating ways. In combination with there being more and more surfers all the time, Reservations containing popular surf spots have justifiably and understandably remained closed to the public. The result is more people trying to surf at fewer places, contributing to crowds.  

In the time of COVID, a crowd is more than just an issue for annoyed surfers. Even if the activity itself can safely abide within the requirements of social distancing, there are a lot of potential interactions at businesses and gas stations and parking lots that occur for the common Seattle surfer driving over 2.5 hours from home to get to waves. Many surf spots in Washington reside in smaller, more rural areas, where an outbreak may be very impactful.  

These conditions have resulted in the direct closure of access to several surf spots, sometimes in the name of public health and safety, sometimes simply because the parking lots had been continually overwhelmed with cars spilling into the roadway and trash left behind. It’s no wonder that the people who live there are frustrated.  

So, we all want to surf, and we all have to share. What do we do? First it is important to remember that access is a privilege that depends on the cooperation of everyone involved. Respect for the immediate community is paramount: your surf spot is likely someone else’s home, treat it as such. If a community asks that people stay away, then stay away. Take the proper care to be considerate of everyone’s health: stick to social distancing, bring as many of your own supplies as you can, and take everything you brought with you. Try to take advantage of days that tend to see less traffic, and if you pull up and see that a parking area is full, go somewhere else.  

If there’s too many people at the house party, it is going to get shut down, and that’s no fun for anybody.  

If you want to take it a step further, you could also invest in organizations working to take care of the places we love to play and the people who inhabit them. Here’s just a few- 

Washington Surfrider Foundation Chapters:

Warm Current:

Puget Sound Restoration Fund:

Washington Environmental Council:

Coastal Watershed Institute:

1 comment

  • Todd Fischer: November 08, 2020

    Nice wording thank you for writing this up and being on the other side of the pond. It sounds very local coming from someone close to the water. Things are getting heavy out here and may contribute to more places shut down for good as I’m sure you know. I appreciate your well written article and support your thoughts as many do. Keep on educating everyone, great job! Todd

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