With much of the mainland U.S.’ coastline under strict lockdown, we should feel lucky that we’re still able to get in the water here in Hawaii. Recent videos on social media of Police arresting surfers in California and perfect waves at Lower Trestles going completely unridden were painful to watch, yet served as a reminder that we in Hawaii should try our best not to ruin a good thing. Honolulu Mayor Kirk Caldwell’s stay-at-home executive order on March 23rd allowed for exercise including swimming and surfing. Here we are two weeks later, and our luck is still holding up. “You can go to the beach to exercise quickly (or) gather limu and go home,” Mayor Caldwell said in a news conference on Tuesday, adding that jogging, walking, swimming and surfing at the beach were permitted, “but sitting on the beach, lying on the beach close to each other,” was not.
Officials have already given thousands of warnings, hundreds of citations, and made dozens of arrests for violations of the order, mostly at beach parks. So what can you do to avoid trouble and help to keep our oceans open? In short, go surf, then go home! Don’t congregate while checking the waves, in fact don’t even check it at all, just go. Setting up camp on the beach as if you’re on spring break seems irresponsible at a time like this and can only make city and county officials question their decision to allow ocean access. For many, maintaining a connection to the ocean has been a lifeline during this stressful time and I think we could all agree, it would be much more difficult to get through this quarantine if our ocean was off limits.
So let’s keep our oceans open, let’s keep our distance while on the beach and while in the water, let’s give each other some space, unless of course you're out with the people in your inner circle. After all, “where it is breezy, 6 feet might not be enough,” says scientist Kim Prather, a professor at the Scripps Institution of Oceanography in San Diego who specializes in tiny aerosol particles, including viruses. She said outdoor exercise such as surfing, swimming, running and bicycling can propel virus particles farther than the recommended 6 feet of social distancing. But how far is far enough? “The best analogy is how far you move away from a smoker if you don’t want to inhale the smoke,” Prather said.
For some, that may be reason enough to avoid beaches and the ocean altogether. But if you absolutely must go surf or swim, we hope you’ll do so while observing the guidelines set forth. Also, remember that lifeguards are not on duty, so, if in doubt, don’t go out!