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SanO access road

SanO surfers were devastated when the access road to the iconic beach was washed away. But it’s almost fixed. Photo: California State Parks

The Inertia

SanO is a staple in the Southern California surfing community. Recently, however, the road leading down to the iconic beach was rendered impassable after powerful winter storms washed it away. Now, just a few months later, it’s close to opening back up again.

“It’s sand so it’s not normal parking lots with asphalt,” said Kevin Pearsall, superintendent for California State Parks. “There’s sand access for parking, so 170 vehicle spots have been restricted since early February. It just has required the surfers to walk or park farther away and bring their surfboards so it’s a little bit more of a physical exertion activity to get out there and enjoy the surf.”

San Onofre was officially designated as a State Beach back in 1971 when a Presidential Decree made it so. In its entirety, it’s a little over 2,000, with over five miles of beach. The Navy leases it, and it’s extraordinarily popular. According to the San Onofre Parks Foundation, the annual attendance is over 2 million visitors. The Foundation also claims it is the most popular surfing beach in the United States, which, given the fact that around 12 million people live within two hours of it, isn’t hard to believe.

The waves at SanO aren’t spectacular, but they are fun. Long, slopey longboard waves pour through, and on the beach it’s common to see families and friends gathering around one of the many fire pits and beach shacks. The vibe is always friendly, and when the access road was washed away, it was a tough pill to swallow for a community that holds SanO close to their hearts.

“It’s devastating,” State Parks Superintendent Scott Kibbey told the OC Register in the days after. “We’re trying to wrap our heads around a solution to find a way to fix this as soon as possible. It’s impassible. You can not drive a vehicle around that right now.”

At first, there was not timeline for the necessary repairs. It was closed “indefinitely”, but on March 15th, it was announced that crews would begin work on March 25th. The repairs are being tackled by both the State and the San Onofre Surfing Club.

“As you know, the Club has been collaborating with the State to address the major drainage failure and other needed road improvements down at surf beach since the road failed back in February,” wrote Club President Scott Cuda. “Repairs to the road are scheduled to start on March 25, 2024 and last approximately one week. During this time, the Club will be assisting with improving the entire road, grading the road and trimming back overgrown foliage in order to restore full access to the surf beach as soon as possible.”

It looks as though they’ve been working hard, because the road could  reopen as early as Monday, April 1st, which given the scale of the damage, is no easy feat. “I’m excited to get back in there on a regular basis for sure,” Cuda told ABC7 News.


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