If your name isn’t Laird Hamilton, SUP surfing fun-sized Malibu is a big ask during the best of times. It isn’t necessarily kosher during a worldwide pandemic either, as one misguided paddler found out today north of Los Angeles. Given the gravity of the Coronavirus outbreak worldwide, where entire towns have been asked to “shelter at home” and public sand has been shut down, Los Angeles followed suit last week, closing all its county beaches.
And this is the first time the ban has really been tested, with a 2-4-foot south swell filling in near California’s most famous pier (with light winds). An unidentified SUP surfer apparently couldn’t take it anymore, paddling out into the surfer-less lineup and scoring his share of waves, according to John Stockwell, owner of Malibu Farms and the director of the surf-pop flick, Blue Crush.
“He was out there for an hour and a half at empty Malibu,” Stockwell told us. Stockwell was tending to his currently-closed location on the pier when he saw the ruckus. “The Baywatch boat was talking to him and he was catching whatever set waves he could get. Then the sheriff boat came. He was trying to go under the pier and get to the other side. The only reason he stopped is because the sheriff’s boat showed up.”
With onlookers barking at him, the paddler continued to play bait-and-switch with the guards according to Stockwell, telling them he’d go in, then paddling out for one more wave. “He agreed to meet them at the beach on the east side of the pier, once they went around to meet him, he’d do a 180 and paddle back to the lineup,” Stockwell said.
The sheriff and a threat from the lifeguard to jump in the water and take his board finally persuaded him to paddle in.
“He got handcuffed the minute he got on the sand and people were applauding,” Stockwell said. “He was definitely being a jackass. They took him to the sheriff’s car, the sheriff took the SUP away. He was handcuffed so I assume he was arrested.” We haven’t checked to see if charges were filed but being taken into custody brings up a larger issue. With beach closures up and down the coast of California, surfers are suddenly faced with a moral issue: to surf or not to surf.
Some are obviously upset with the closures, choosing to ride waves where they can or finding empty patches of sand. Others are fully taking a break, hoping not to spread infection (or become infected) or overload rescue or healthcare services.
“Short of sending out jet skis with Brian Keaulana, they did everything else to take him down,” Stockwell said. “There were four sheriffs cars, two lifeguard trucks, a Baywatch boat, a sheriff’s boat. When it was all said and done that was a lot of manpower to bring in this one guy. They’re gonna clamp down, if they let one or two guys out it would just snowball and they wouldn’t be able to keep a finger on it.”
Editor’s Note: The Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department has still not released the SUP surfers name but they did tell us he was arrested for disobeying a lifeguard in violations of county code 17.12.115 and government code 8665. He was transported to the Lost Hills Sheriff’s Station and released on a promise to appear in court.