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Atmosphere of uncertainty captured by Santa Cruz filmmaker during coronavirus outbreak


SANTA CRUZ, Calif. (KRON) — A local filmmaker and surfer created an eerie, thought-provoking short film documenting an atmosphere of uncertainty during the coronavirus pandemic.

Filmmaker Kyle Buthman’s short film, “Adapt?” shows a lone surfer wearing a gas mask catching barreling waves under cloudy skies. The surfer featured in the film is Sam Coffey.

Buthman said, “The beaches are closed. The beaches are open. A vocal scientist says she wouldn’t go in the water for a million dollars. The confusion leaves passionate surfers to confront an ocean of COVID-19 fear.”

The scenes were filmed around Santa Cruz, a place where people usually go for outdoor recreation, socializing with friends, and carefree tranquility. Californians are missing many of those things as stay-at-home COVID-19 orders continue to be extended. Social distancing rules written by county and state officials change week-by-week, and vary widely up and down the California coast.

Buthman said the COVID-19 crisis is a strange time for surfers to live through, and he made the film as a creative outlet painting that picture.

When an April swell brought head-high waves to Santa Cruz, the county banned on all watersports, effectively banning surfing in Surf City. Anyone who defied the ban faced a $1,000 fine. Perfectly peeling waves at Steamer Lane and and Pleasure Point were empty, a strange sight that has not been seen in decades. The ban was lifted after a few days.

Along with a potentially deadly virus, COVID-19 has also been spreading heightened levels of anxiety.

“Some people have a lot of fear, and others have no fear,” Buthman said.

“Surfing matters during a public health crisis because it keeps us sane. In these times when everything is changing, we don’t really know what we are allowed to do and not to do. We may not feel normal. (Surfing) keeps your mind clear,” Buthman said.

Last week, Governor Gavin Newsom was preparing to shut down every beach in California because ocean-loving beach crowds were failing to maintain six feet of social distance, especially when a heat wave hit.

Interestingly, two state political leaders who also happen to be surfers saved the day for outdoor recreationists, the New York Times reported.

“The majority leader of the California State Assembly, Ian Calderon, and State Senator Henry Stern, both passionate surfers, rallied a working group in hopes of keeping some beaches open. They succeeded. It was agreed that a ‘keep it moving’ policy was the solution. Running, walking and surfing are permitted; sitting on the beach is not,” the Times wrote.

Ventura County Mayor Matt LaVere, also a surfer, said, “Ventura has some of the best waves in the world. Telling people in Ventura they can’t surf is like telling them they can’t breathe air.”

Current Beach Rules


The county’s spokesperson wrote: “Due to overwhelming weekend beach crowds that undermined State and local Shelter-in-Place orders, the County of Santa Cruz is implementing new rules to limit beach activity during peak usage hours. While beaches remain available only for recreational activities to promote physical and mental health, beginning this weekend, beaches will off-limits for all activities between the hours of 11 a.m.-5 p.m. Previous limits on beach activities such as lying, sitting, standing, sunbathing, sightseeing and other non-exercise related activities remain in place. No umbrellas, barbecues, coolers, beach chairs, shade structures, tents or other equipment will be allowed at any time. Water-based activities such as surfing, paddleboarding, boogie boarding, swimming, snorkeling and kayaking will not be impacted by the order. Beaches may be traversed to participate in these activities. Additionally, facilities adjacent to beaches such as parkways, sidewalks and trails will remain open. Non-beach areas of local parks are unaffected by the order, though they remain subject to restrictions put in place by State and local jurisdictions. The order will remain in effect until revised by the Santa Cruz County Health Officer. For local information on COVID-19, go to, call 211 or text COVID19 to 211211. Residents may also call (831) 454-4242 between the hours of 8 a.m. and 6 p.m., seven days a week.”


Only some beaches are open, and you must be a local (live within 10 miles of the beach.) Most parking lots and turnouts along Highway 1 are closed. Sheriff’s deputies have been heavily patrolling the coast and slapping hundreds of vehicles with parking tickets.


The beaches are closed along the coast. According to the county’s order, “Sonoma Coast beaches will remain closed because of the potential for crowding and the limited resources available to enforce local walk-in and bike-in access along the coastline. The order allows Russian River beaches to open to residents who can walk or bike from their homes. Residents can use the parks only for walking, hiking, jogging, biking and fishing.”

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