Tourists sunbathe and more at beach despite restrictions
Signs poke up from the sand alongside the running path and the beach. It outlines beach restrictions for Labor Day Weekend: No sitting, standing or sunbathing.
But still, people are sitting, standing and sunbathing.
The Santa Barbara County Public Health Department issued an order Aug. 26 to address this weekend. It aims to divert crowds off the beach as Santa Barbara County tries to limit the spread of COVID-19.
This order mirrors the one enacted for the weekend of the Fourth of July. During a press conference Friday, Gregg Hart, chair of the Board of Supervisors, said crowds were “not a problem” during the Fourth of July, and officers roamed the beach enforcing the restrictions. He expects the same this weekend.
It isn’t as busy as a normal weekend, nonetheless a three-day weekend, but the warning issued seems to have not perturbed a collection of beachgoers in Santa Barbara. Kids are still making sandcastles, though “beach toys” are on the list of prohibited items. Sunbathers snore on the beach, towels flopped over their faces.
A group of three friends in town for “boys’ weekend” were surprised to hear the beach is closed. They said they’d try out breweries instead.
Travelers Julia Gonda and Wilton Wooliever didn’t see the signs and stopped at the beach before backpacking through Los Padres National Forest this weekend. They planned on the road less traveled as a way to avoid the germs anticipated in higher-density spaces.
There were more than a dozen groups, and some stray sunbathers scattered along West Beach at 10 a.m. Friday. The five groups interviewed were all tourists.
Adjacent to the beach, Stearns Wharf was abuzz with mostly couples and families, as they diverted away from the beach and still caught views of the ocean. It was easy to brush shoulders walking on the narrow pedestrian pathways, and it was a steady stream of foot traffic.
Most people had masks with them, though about half only had them over their mouths. (To be effective, masks should cover noses and mouths, according to doctors and public health officials.)
Randall and Janine Stiffler thought the precautions seemed extensive. “We’re outside,” Mr. Stiffler said. “It doesn’t seem to make sense.”
The two drove from Huntington Beach Friday to celebrate Mrs. Stiffler’s birthday weekend. They’ll be leaving Monday and are disappointed the trip doesn’t involve sitting back by the ocean.
“We hope to just have fun and be as unrestricted as possible,” she said.
As they explained their disappointment, two young women in red bikinis jumped off the pier and splashed into the ocean. The Stifflers asked, “Are they allowed to do that?”
Supervisor Hart accentuated that beaches are not closed; some activities are restricted. Beach activities not prohibited by the order include running, walking, swimming and kayaking.
On Friday, families on paddle boards and kayaks yelled to one another as they flopped through waves, and there were peddle carts strolling along the sidewalk. One even delayed a few cars as it crawled along State Street.
Some tourists still have their fun.