A call to arms on new ocean swimming regulations

Posted by Scott Zornig, 1 July 2013

If you not have yet heard, the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors and Department of Beaches and Harbors recently adopted a new policy which prohibits organized water activity without permissions, permits and insurance. “Water Activity” does not just mean a swimming race or event. Specifically, it applies to any group of swimmers (two or more people) who meet at a specified time on an LA County Beach for the purposes of swimming/training together. In other words, you no longer can send an email and rally a group of friends to meet you at the beach at 8am to do a simple training swim. If you do and you are caught, you will face a steep fine.

The problem is that due to the power of social networking, Los Angeles County feels the ocean is getting more crowded and as a result, the water becomes less safe. This means they require additional lifeguards at a cost, to protect everyone.

Los Angeles County does not seem to realize that the people who are training are much better swimmers than the average sun bather. They also don’t seem to understand that it is safer for marathon swimmers and triathletes to train as a group, rather than as an individual. According to Kerry Silverstrom, chief deputy director of the Los Angeles County Department of Beaches and Harbors. “We want to make sure that we know when these groups are coming, so they don’t interfere with ordinary beach access or something we’ve scheduled, and so we can make sure that they’re safe.”

It is interesting that this ruling does not seem to apply to surfers who might gather to ride waves together…it is the swimmers, paddle boarders, triathletes who are being singled out. I also find it interesting that if you visit the Los Angeles County lifeguard department website, the first rule listed is “never swim alone.”

If I may be so blunt, this is the most ridiculous government policy I have ever heard. There is no way that you will ever convince me a single marathon swimmer in training is safer than 4 or 5 swimmers who stay together and look out for each other. This is a terrible rule which must be overturned immediately.

This is where you come in. We need your help to get this rectified.

First, please forward this information to every ocean swimmer, triathlete and triathlon club that you know and make them aware of the situation Secondly, please write a letter to the LA County Board of Supervisors and the Department of Beaches and Harbors and express your feelings (email addresses below). If we can get 200 to 300 letters written, we have a fighting chance to amend this policy.

You should write this letter even if you do not live or swim in Los Angeles county. Ocean swimmers from around the world are encouraged to notify the county of your feelings. LA County has the largest lifeguard department in the world and if other U.S. counties learn of this policy, they too could take similar action. We have a responsibility to ourselves and fellow ocean swimmers to protect our rights and abilities to swim in open water. As the saying goes, “this baby needs to be killed in the crib.”

Please write an email today to each of the below people. This might just be the most important letter you write all year if you desire to protect your rights of swimming in the ocean.

The Board of Supervisors email addresses:

The Department of Beaches and Harbors


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