The New Normal: Kevin Schulz On CallingThe Mayor, Maybe Getting Surfing Restored In San Clemente

by stab April 15, 2020 7 min read

Kevin Schulz is sharp, realistic, and freakin’ ripping. 

That was the title of Kevin’s Stab Interview back in 2019, and wouldn’t you know it, the same rings true today. 

While the rest of the world was complaining how “unfair” it is that they can’t surf anymore, Kevin was using his frustration as motivation, which led to a call with the San Clemente mayor (Erik Sund), which led to a potential advancement in the case of surfers being able to use the ocean during the covid crisis. 

Everything you need to know about the San Clemente situation (and Kevin’s role in it) can be found below.  

Stab: How are things in San Clemente since they closed the beaches?
Kevin Schulz: Since the beaches have closed, San Clemente feels a bit like a ghost town… it feels kind of eerie around here. When the social distancing/stay at home issues were first ordered, there were tons of people out using the beach and the walking trail and just trying to get exercise. Now we have chain-link fences covering all access to beaches and trails, and quite a bit of law enforcement patrolling the surrounding areas. It is a really strange, almost uncomfortable feeling.

Is it true that you’re working your way through the legal system to get surfing reinstated in San Clemente?
[Laughs] Yes… well kind of. I called the office of our mayor, to get some more information regarding the shut-down, and why it was put in place. I know that quite a few other San Clemente citizens/surfers have done the same. It seemed like one day everything was great, cherry, and the next it was full-blown lockdown, couldn’t touch the sand of the city beaches.

What reasoning did the mayor provide?
Originally I left a message with his secretary, and she said that she would try and have him call me back the following day… I was really surprised he (Erik Sund) called me back 5 minutes later, and we had a conversation. I expressed my feelings, concerns and asked a few questions about the closure… 

The main reason he cited was that their office was receiving an influx of complaints regarding people using the beach and beach trail and not adhering to the social distancing guidelines. There were also complaints about people coming in from out of town and using the city’s amenities, because theirs were closed. He explained that the city council deemed it would be best to enforce a hard closure of the beaches to prevent further spread of the virus.

https://player.vimeo.com/video/384930540

And how did you respond?
I was slightly concerned with the affiliation being drawn between beach, beach trail, and ocean. Those are 3 separate entities, used for completely different things, and most of the time used by different demographics. I asked him if there would be a way to come together as a surfing community and work with the city to allow access to the ocean for surfers, beachgoers, or those who are just looking to keep moving in these times, while still adhering to the guidelines for social distancing. I could go into detail about the “hows” on that front. But that’s a deep deep rabbit hole. 

We have so many in our community, and surrounding communities alike, who use the ocean as a place of recreation, and also as a place of profession. In San Clemente, there are two Olympians using the ocean as a training ground multiple times per day… of course in a time like this, many are out of work, and it’s not exactly time to play, but I am mostly advocating the reopen to provide mental sanity for those who consider the ocean a place of freedom, exercise and a place to make a living. 

The mayor mentioned that it would ultimately come back to the city council’s decision, and that the best he could do right now was convey what I said at the next council meeting, which takes place on April 21st I believe.

Well that’s good news! We obviously all want to be able to surf, but just to play devil’s advocate, what are your thoughts on the logic that opening the beach will invite people from all over (be it inland or from other coastal regions with closed beaches) to San Clemente?
Personally, I don’t mind people coming from elsewhere to get in the water… if we are able to catch waves amidst this crisis, then I’m all for it. It just needs to be done the right way with respect to others around us.

I do believe that with a re-opening, there will need to be more strict regulations put in place for the time being in regards to distancing, crowds and time in the water. Also, considering first opening the water, then the beach, then the trails surrounding, versus putting it all of it on blast at one time. I understand this takes time, effort and resources, but as a surfing community, we all might be able to come together to help enforce some reasonable measures in the meantime. I know a handful of people that would be happy to help with those kinds of measures, myself included. 

I have friends who work locally with the marine safety division as well as the police, and they don’t want to be closing the beaches, they are surfers too… and I also don’t want to put their jobs in jeopardy by acting out against them and forcing their hands to take action… there is a way to work with law enforcement to find a happy medium. 

Lots of logistical factors here, but in theory it could work, and given other cities follow suit, it will be less crowded for the places that are still currently open for surfing—HB, Newport, Dana.

Yeah…that’s the tough part, right? It’s like if one beach is open, they almost all have to be open—otherwise you’ll have a full bottleneck of surfers at one spot, which is contrary to the goal of social distancing.

On another note, and not to be Debbie Downer here, but isn’t there part of this that just comes from our American entitlement? As the country with the largest number of covid cases and deaths around the world, do you think it’s reasonable for surfers to ask for these exceptions when places like Europe have been properly locked down for an entire month?

I’ve actually thought about this exact question quite extensively over the last few days. Because you are right, we could have it so much worse here… if you want to jump in the car, get out of the house and make some effort you can still get in the water and surf a wave. So many, like those in Europe, are not able to do that. 

From an American standpoint, we are seeing everyday freedoms that we are so used to, being completely stripped—not just limited—which is where the lines get blurry in regards to a ‘democracy’. There are so many perspectives and statistics here, that are beyond my education level to argue in favor or against. 

Ultimately, I think it’s ok to ask for exceptions, so long as we are being conscious of the health of others around us and that those exceptions’ rewards outweigh the risks. 

There are definitely bigger problems that need solving than opening the beaches, and it is important for all of us to do our part in preventing the spread. This is just something directly affecting my close community.

And to your question regarding beach openings being “all or nothing”, I tend to agree.

Of course it would be great to have your local break open for just your friends and fellow community members. I think as surfers we all selfishly wish for that—I can’t say I haven’t thought about it—but that’s just not going to happen. And as a traveling surfer, it is never that fun to deal with hardcore locals, so it’s important to be welcoming. 

Well put! Now, when you’re not fighting the power, what have you been doing with your downtime?

[Laughs] no fighting here! Just trying to find a happy medium… 

The last few weeks I’ve actually taken on some extra units at school… figured it’s a good time to get that done. I’m two semesters away from finishing my Bachelors’ in healthcare management at NorthEastern University (online). I’m looking forward to having that wrapped up. 

I won’t lie, I’ve been dawn-patrolling to avoid crowds and getting a few fun waves to keep my sanity. I’m doing my best to adhere to the rules. 

I also have just been spending tons of time with my family and girlfriend. It has been really enjoyable to be home and have quality time with everyone… family dinners, lots of card games! Staying healthy!

Do you still live at home, and does your girlfriend live there too?
Right now we’re both still living at home, traveling as much as I did it wasn’t making sense to pay rent and not be there, we figured it better to save, see if the housing market drops and put a down payment on something in the near future!

Ohhh so when’s the wedding?!
[Laughs] as soon as we can afford that one too. 

What are your three lock-down food essentials?
Coffee, bananas, Løs Sundays tequila. It’s a healthy balance of caffeine, potassium, and alcohol.

What are three non-edible items that you couldn’t quarantine without?
My computer, my dogs, and my car!

What’s your daily screen time?
Today’s screen time is four hours and 27 minutes—that’s embarrassing [laughs].

Don’t worry, mine’s in the fives. Anyways, thanks Kevin. This has been elucidating, to say the least!
No worries! Also, I’d be like to include a thanks to all the first responders out there for doing what they do and being on the front lines of current world events. They rule and are much appreciated.

If you live in San Clemente and the movement to re-open the beaches is indeed successful, you can thank Kevin with a wave of his choice (probably a Lowers left). If you don’t live in San Clemente, feel free to use Kevin’s simple but heroic actions as a blueprint for softening your own town’s rules. 

 

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