RESPONSE: Date: October 4, 1996

Thank you for the opportunity to respond to Dr. Rudolph's letter regarding surfing and swimming zone boundries at La Jolla Shores.

The San Diego Coastline is estimated to be some 26 miles in length. Of this, the vast majority is open to both surfing and swimming, with surfers tending to dominate except at major beaches when lifeguards are present. At these beaches, where high numbers of swimmers congregate, water activity zones have long been designated to separate swimmers and surfers for reasons of public safety.

Three major types of water activity zones are designated by the San Diego Municipal Code, with the boundries set by Council resolution: swimming, surfing, and control. Swimming is prohibited in surfing zones and surfing is prohibited in swimming zones. Control zones are open to both users during the off-summer months when attendance is lower, but become temporally variable zones in summer. Specifically, in summer these zones are for swimming from 11:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. and for surfing at other times of day (morning and evening).

The reason control zones exist is to address the variations in water use during summer. Typically mid-day, swimmers are the vast majority users, but in early morning and evening hours, they are less intensive users. Thus, control zones allow us to provide more space to the relatively higher numbers of swimmers mid-day, but to give that area back to surfers when swimming crowds decline.

If La Jolla Shores is viewed as a continuum beginning at the south end of the La Jolla Beach and Tennis Club (which many view as private beach) and ending at the rocks north of Scripps Pier, during summer, the zones at La Jolla Shores are divided roughly as follows:

0.20 La Jolla Beach andTennis Club (private beach area with quasi-public swimming
0.15 Main swimming zone from boat launch to main lifeguard station
0.10 Scripps swimming zone
0.45 Total swimming
0.40 North restrooms at La Jolla Shores to Scripps swimming zone
0.10 North side of Scripps Pier (this is technically swimming, but unenforced)
0.50 Total surfing zone
0.10 Main lifeguard station to north restroom building

In Summer, La Jolla Shores has the most dense swimming crowd of any of our beaches by a significant margin. Swimmers tend to congregate near the parking lot, which is adjacent to the main lifeguard station and near the boundary with the surfing area. In fact, the swimming crowd is so dense mid-day, that this is the only beach at which lifeguards are regularly assigned to simply stay in the water on the boundary line to keep swimmers and surfers separated. In particular, the swim crowd tends to bulge northward due to congestion.

The short control zone at La Jolla Shores thus provides a small amount of additional area to swimmers, who are by far the majority users mid-day in summer, but gives this area to surfers in morning and evening hours. The rest of the year, it is a defacto surfing zone.

Although there is some confusing history about the boundries (which is related to a change in the location of the main lifeguard station at La Jolla Shores), prior to the 1994 change in the Council resolution, the effective border between the swimming and surfing zones was roughly half way between the main lifeguard station and the north restroom building. In other words, it was at the center of the public parking lot, where Tower #22 was most recently positioned. There was no control zone in between. There was however, a designated control zone just south of the Scripps swimming zone. This northern control zone was underutilized by swimmers due to its distance from the main parking lot and was effectively given up to surfers.

The 1994 change eliminated the northern control zone to expand the designated 24-hour surfing zone north to the Scripps swimming area and inserted a control zone between the main lifeguard station and the north restrooms. The net effect is that the area available to surfers was expanded slightly in morning and evening hours in summer and shrunk slightly mid-day.

Obviously, there is no complaint from surfers about the increase in surfing zone in morning and evening hours represented by the change. The complaint involves approximately 0.05 miles of beach that is now given to swimmers mid-day.

According to Dr. Rudolph, this "... destroys an excellent surfing zone." He also states that the affected zone includes, "... a rip current that can catch bathers. Surfers know of it and are not affected."

Clearly the surfing zone at the Shores has not been destroyed, although this may be an issue of semantics. Rather, what has happened is that the most crowded swimming zone we oversee has been expanded slightly during mid-day in summer to accommodate the majority users and to help maintain a safe separation between the two user groups. During morning and evening hours, the surfing zone has been expanded, which is reflective of the relative decline in swimmers at this time of day.

As for the rip current issue, under the Municipal Code (63.20.2) lifeguards are empowered to adjust designated activity zone boundaries from day to day based on weather, crowd conditions, special events, or other factors, but may not permanently change the boundaries. Therefore, if a rip current is pulling strongly in the control zone at La Jolla Shores, lifeguards may adjust the boundary southward to keep swimmers out of it. This was done for much of the spring and summer of 1996. While this action effectively gives up the area to surfers, surfing is generally very poor in rip current areas and most surfers therefore avoid them.

Rip currents on sand beaches vary in intensity and location from year to year, from season to season, and even from day to day. While there was a strong rip current prevalent just north of Tower #22 during spring and early summer of this year, toward the end of summer, the intensity of the current subsided. This allowed lifeguards to utilize the established boundaries and provide additional area for swimmers according to established boundaries.

In summary, the actions taken by Council in 1994 had the effect of slightly expanding the zone available to surfers during morning and evening hours in summer and slightly expanding the zone available to swimmers mid-day in summer. The beach remains roughly divided 50/50 between surfing and swimming at all hours during summer.

Considering these factors, we recommend the changes made by Council in 1995 and do not believe that a change in the current boundaries would be appropriate.