You might've heard through the wire that the California Parks Department closed San Onofre State Beach to surfing yesterday, including Lower Trestles. Don Abadie admittedly tried to find a way around the recent closure, the temptation to surf a clean, 4-6-foot swell with an empty lineup at one of Southern California's best waves apparently got the best of him. And it backfired big time.
Abadie, who I spoke with on the phone, was operating a 14-foot zodiac-style boat with one other friend. He anchored the boat on the outside of Lowers where he thought he'd be deep enough. But the boat was caught inside without either of the surfers on board to control it. Readers tipped us off that the incident had occurred but you can see the boat getting washed in on the Instagram post from photographer Tom Cozad, above.
"The lifeguards and rangers just want their job to be easy (right now)," said Abadie, admitting that he didn't help them do that. "They want people to stay off the beach and out of the water. Now I feel like an ass that I tried to find a loophole. Our thought process was get in there by boat, get a couple waves, get out."
Abadie was surprised by the size of the surf. "We thought we were (anchored) pretty far out, but a big, wide set came and once the swell lifted the boat that high up, it pulled the anchor and that sealed the deal," he said. "The wave right behind it took the whole boat in on the whitewash."
Abadie says the lifeguards and parks department were very understanding given the circumstances. After catching the first wave, he tried to get back out to the boat with lifeguards on the bull horn, talking to him from shore to get out of the ocean. But the ocean wasn't having it as a set held him on the inside while he watched his boat getting pummeled in the surf (the $23,000 boat is a total loss, he said), losing his phone, keys, iPad and most everything else he couldn't find washed up on the sand. He had to have the wrecked boat towed and was issued a citation for "being a knucklehead" as a boat captain but avoided the $1,000 fine from the parks.
The Coronavirus crisis has stirred a polarizing debate in the surfing world on whether or not to surf. Some argue that they need the relief the ocean gives them in this stressful time, and that they're socially distancing by surfing. One UC San Diego scientist says the disease could be spread in the ocean. A group of Hawaiian intellectuals disagreed. People have been arrested for paddling out at closed beaches. One argument that makes complete sense among the fray - and Abadie agrees with now - is the act of stretching healthcare workers and safety personal thin during the crisis because of accidents and possibly exposing them to the Coronavirus. The yard sale did exactly what officials were hoping wouldn't happen: those resources were stretched extremely thin, not to mention the imminent danger faced by surfers on the inside as a boat with an exposed motor came crashing towards them.
"(The lifeguard and park officials said) make sure you tell everybody whether you're boating or paddling or biking, however you access the beach, it's closed," he said. "Don't go in the water, they still patrol the waves. It's a hard beach closure, including the surf. I got a very expensive lesson."
Editor's Note: This post was updated with comments from the boat driver.