Surfing And the Shutdown

How the U.S. government's closures can impact your surf life

The Hatteras Seashore at the Outer Banks, which has shut down with U.S. government. Photo: Lusk
Access to surf breaks along National Seashores, particularly on the East Coast, has been shutdown with the government. Photo: Lusk

The government entered into partial shutdown mode on Oct. 1, and whether it impacts you directly or not depends largely on where you work, where you live, and how you pay the bills. Surfers across the country have been affected in different ways by the shutdown, most immediately in the form of closures at federally-funded beaches. Some weather monitoring websites have also gone down, leaving a few swell forecast models in the dark. Here are the main ways in which the shutdown may influence your surf program.

  • NOAA and it’s website is shutdown, leaving some buoy data invisible to wave reporting services. NOAA is still monitoring the buoys, and is reporting the data on the National Data Buoy Center website, but any swell forecasting website that pulls directly from NOAA will be offline during the shutdown. Many automated radio weather radio reports are also offline.
  • Beaches along National Seashores are closed. This is restricted mainly to the east coast, which contains the vast majority of federally maintained beaches, but some beaches in Texas, Point Reyes National Seashore and the Golden Gate National Recreation Area in the Bay Area, and even beaches along the Great Lakes are off limits during the shutdown. How “closed” these beaches are depends on how many officials are available to monitor beach access. In most cases just being on shuttered beaches is a ticket-able offense. Roads leading to the beaches and parking lots are closed, limiting access. There are also no lifeguards on duty, if that’s an issue for you.
  • The EPA won’t be performing routine water quality monitoring. The BEACH Act, a federal funds program administered by the EPA, sets the tone for state and local water quality monitoring at the nation’s beaches, and in many cases, the EPA is the only agency testing for water quality at all. Even at many beaches monitored by city, state, or county officials, the bulk of the testing funds come from the fed, so once local money dries up, those beaches won’t be tested either. Furthermore, once the shutdown is over, the EPA will have a backlog of cleanup sites to deal with, which may delay re-implementation of water quality testing.
  • U.S. passport processing offices may have to close. Planning an international surf trip real soon? Hope your passport’s all squared away. While the government will still technically be processing passport applications, many offices that handle issuing passports are in shuttered federal buildings, meaning huge delays in processing while the remaining offices cope with the overflow.
The official "NOAA Status Alert" from NOAA.gov.
The official “NOAA Status Alert” from NOAA.gov.