You Say "Epidemic"; He Says "Great Time to Go Surfing!"; …

... Costa Rican government says "you're under arrest."

|The Volokh Conspiracy |

Or so says an article in Stab Magazine (apparently a publication about surfing). An excerpt with some policy analysis (the article also has more on the facts):

Kelly makes some great points about how arresting officers grabbing surfers could exacerbate the spread of covid-19 (certainly more so than the physical act of surfing). And, also to his point, it makes no sense for the ocean to be closed before retail spaces. But on the point that people should be allowed to surf throughout this crisis (especially if they keep their distance), Kelly is wrong….

If people are allowed to surf (even at a safe distance from one another), it will lead to a mass migration of surfers from all surrounding areas to the beach. This is especially true since everyone is out of work and wants something to keep their minds and bodies occupied. Also, we're coming into a holiday week/end around the world, which will only add to the chaos.

Now, even if we were to assume that not a single person around the world could or would contract covid-19 while in the water (which is a very weak assumption), what about all the hotels, gas stations, coffee shops, public bathrooms, and other disease-incubating amenities that will inevitably be flooded by these migratory surfers?

If you could somehow enforce a law that only people who lived within walking distance of the beach were allowed to surf, it would probably be fine for them to do so. But of course that's not logistically feasible, so closing all beaches (and their adjacent waves) is the only logical step our government can take if they're serious about stopping the spread.

Thanks to Jenny Wilson for the pointer.


NEXT: The World Must Not Mimic China's Authoritarian Model to Fight COVID-19

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  1. At the get-go, I said that people would put up with this stuff for two weeks and with anything more than that, there would be open rebellion. And this is the end of the second week….

    Things are going to get very ugly, very quickly.

    And there once was a time when I would have pointed out that this story was out of Costa Rica and that Americans enjoy Constitutional rights and the rest. That was then, this is now…

    1. Actually, we do enjoy Constitutional rights; they just aren’t followed by any level of government any more.
      We say rights, they say “more like a guideline, actually . . .”

    2. California lockdown started in February with it becoming official starting in early March. We’ve been doing this for three weeks now and if a bent out of shape surfer dude is evidence of “open rebellion” then you have an odd opinion of what “open rebellion” means.

      Another consistent pattern over the last few weeks. You’ve not been right one time in these forums.

      1. I was speaking of New England — and things are getting interesting here as we start Week #3.

    3. “Things are going to get very ugly, very quickly.”

      First, I don’t think there are as many uneducated, reckless, ignorant, anti-social misfits in our society as you seem to believe there are. Perhaps we operate in different circles.

      Second, I expect and hope society’s legitimate authorities will impose adult supervision on the counterproductive malcontents promptly, openly, and effectively. That should discourage all but the most delusional people from acting like childish fools and belligerent dullards during a pandemic.

      Offenders should be treated as society would handle someone who uniformly refuses to comply with stop signs, red lights, and drunken driving laws.

      1. Elect them to the Senate from Massachusetts?

        1. Gives the statement “I yield to the Senator from Massachusetts ” a whole new meaning.

      2. Like we enforce the immigration laws?!?

        1. If you are unable to distinguish routine immigration practices from emergency measures associated with pandemic . . . no wonder most Americans have made you a culture war casualty, a condition that will continue until you are replaced.

    4. Maybe don’t be so evidently eager for things to ‘get ugly.’

      By golly Dr. Ed, you’re right again!
      I admit I didn’t realize what “ugly”, “interesting” and “open rebellion” in New England really meant.
      Good to know!

      1. The college kids all went home, and the Governor closed the stores.


  2. If everybody had an ocean…

  3. I’m inclined to point out that there aren’t that many surfers, they already probably didn’t have jobs, and so it is unlikely there’d be anyone flooding to the beaches that wasn’t already there, which makes the whole, “millions of surfers will flock to the beaches and they’ll all get it pumping gas” rationale sorta ridiculous.

    1. While that may be true in the US, Costa Rica is in a very different situation where they do expect millions of foreign tourists on contested beaches.

  4. So it’s cool to use the police to bully surfers because of indirect, indirect, quasi-imaginary risks caused by people using public restrooms and buying gas?

    There’s no limit to this sort of thinking. Should we send agents door to door to confiscate surf boards? Maybe we could randomly stop people driving and interrogate them to see if their trip is truly critically necessary?

    But here’s a better idea: send the police to help people instead of making things worse. Have them solve real problems, not indirect, indirect problems that someone imagines might happen.

    They already closed off beach parking so beach populations are sparse. If you can hang out near the beach bullying solitary surfers, you can also leave solitary surfers alone and break up gatherings instead. If some place is too crowded, close off more parking.

    The real problem is that someone gets to do what they enjoy while others can’t. I suspect that why it’s necessary to pick on surfers.

    1. “But here’s a better idea: send the police to help people instead of making things worse. Have them solve real problems”

      They have no idea how to do that.

  5. A Florida pastor was arrested for flouting the law by conducting a gathering of hundreds of people during the pandemic.

    That arrest appears to be a good start. If the congregation assembles without the pastor, I hope authorities arrest the entire group. Mass arrests should not be difficult; police use buses to transport offenders in large-scale liquor law raids.

    1. Oh, right. Because leaving people gathered in church is so much worse than cramming them all at once, at gunpoint, into a bus???

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