Spring is that magical time of year for Santa Barbarians that of course means plenty of beaching, bronzing and binging. I could add “boarding” to that and make it a four-way alliteration, but that just wouldn’t be honest writing. Springtime sucks for surfing in Santa Barbara. All of those coastal jewels such as Rincon Point, El Capitan and the plethora of points in between won’t be the shiny bearers of swell that they have been this winter. They will lie dormant for the coming months, leaving us with little to do besides grovel for scraps coming in at Backyards, and probably only when convenient, such as when we are engaging in one or all of the above activities. This is the standard practice during any spring in Isla Vista, but this one in particular is off to a strange start.
I would never have claimed to doubt the average UCSB student’s dedication to partying, nor would I ever assume that the out-of-towners would miss an opportunity to wreak havoc on our slum, but this year’s Floatopia surprised even me. At first I gawked at the Sheriff’s Department plan to close the beaches for the day, thinking that it was surely somehow illegal to do so. I didn’t even necessarily care about the day drinking extravaganza, but there are certain comforts that one gets from living by the beach, and certain discomforts one gets when you can’t even set foot on the sand. What if I want to go surfing? What if I want to take my dog for a walk? What if I really needed to practice for the annual sandcastle building competition that takes place every summer downtown by the wharf? Well, I don’t have a dog, and I may have just made up the sandcastle building competition, but the surfing part is valid, right? I was surprised that such extreme measures were taken for this year’s Floatopia, but what really shocked me was how determined people were to make some kind of drunken event happen anyway. The beach was closed off, which clearly meant no one would be floating, and the sun was covered by clouds, which meant that no one would be tanning, and yet the streets still ran golden with beer. People were everywhere with parties up and down Del Playa, Sabado Tarde, Trigo, etc. I wondered to myself, was closing the beach a legitimate strategy?
In an issue of the Daily Nexus that ran a few days after the event, the Sheriff’s Department was so pleased with the results that they said they might consider using beach closures in the future. At first I was stunned. On that fateful Saturday around 6 p.m., I was in my car driving out of I.V. when I came to a stop behind several cars that weren’t moving. I honked my horn and was trying to drive around them when I saw what all the commotion was about. Some kid had become incapacitated in the street and it took a group of his friends to lift him off the asphalt so that cars could pass by. Now that’s what I call a victory for law enforcement. They successfully transplanted a beach party onto the streets, but the song remained the same. At first I thought that the situation was a joke and that law enforcement was simply deflecting something that they could not figure out how to stop. Closing the beach to everyone just seemed like an additional inconvenience on top of the thousands of drunken fools already invading I.V. for the weekend. The more I thought about it though, the more I realized that maybe closing the beach was the right call. Sure, I can’t surf there for a day, and people who actually have dogs can’t walk them on the beach, but at least when these thousands of drunkards pillaged our town, they couldn’t pillage our beach. I’ve seen the beach on mornings after Floatopias from previous years and the beach looks hung over. Cigarette butts line the shore and broken bottles and cans litter the sand. I didn’t want to surf after seeing that. Just the amount of pee alone in that water was probably mind-boggling. The way I see it now is that I am going to lose a day of surf either way, so we might as well trash our houses instead of our beaches. So for this I must forgive the powers that be for closing the beach and recognize that when it comes to I.V., you can never stop the party, but you can and should stop it from hurting our tar spotted haven.
Without getting into too much detail on the floatopia debate, I just wanted to mention a couple of things: I was at floatopia 2009, it was an awesome party, and it was environmentally damaging, that much can not be denied. To have another event like floatopia 2009 would be irresponsible for all involved. However, banning drinking on i.v. beaches is a gross overreaction, and kills part of the spirit and culture of isla vista. The beach closures are just wrong, and make i.v. feel more like a police state than a laid back beach community. I applaud the efforts of… Read more »