MANHATTAN BEACH, Calif. — Had you been taking a stroll down the Manhattan Beach strand on Friday night, you would have noticed a sight that is both at once ubiquitous for the area and entirely strange.
Two men were playing volleyball. Thing was, there was no net.
Nor are there any nets in the South Bay any longer.
On Friday afternoon, Hermosa Beach officials were driving up and down the beach, cutting down the dozens upon dozens of nets from Redondo to Manhattan, leaving the beaches a graveyard of abandoned volleyball courts.
“I understand the idea of not encouraging hundreds of people gathering around volleyball courts and being potentially unsafe, taking all the nets down strikes me as a little extreme and unnecessary,” said Jon Mesko, who has played professionally since 2006.
The nets being cut down came a day after California governor Gavin Newsom ordered residents to stay at home in an attempt to slow the spread of Covid-19.
TMZ even had a story about it on Friday.
Miles Evans was practicing with Raffe Paulis on Friday morning when officials kicked them off the court.
“We trained at Eighth street and we were about halfway through our game and a cop showed up and said that we had to get off the court because they were going to take the nets down,” said Evans, who made the final of the AVP Hermosa Beach Open in 2019. “We had to obey and call it a day.”
Residents are still finding a way.
Ed Keller and his regular group on 22nd street managed to take their nets down themselves before the city removed them. Mesko, too, owns a net that he has been able to put up and take down when he wants to practice and get his exercise on the beach.
“In a world of fear, I had one of the best days of my life yesterday,” he said. “I surfed for an hour, played volleyball for three hours with my close friends, and while people are scared, I’m being responsible.
“But while I see others buying surgical masks, I’m buying vegetables and green juice and working on living a healthier life with a stronger immune system. This is the way we get exercise and I love it.”
Many others are more in favor of the ban on volleyball.
A number of beach players have taken to social media to express their support for staying at home, and in particular to stay away from playing beach volleyball. Lauren Fendrick, a 2016 Olympian, wrote a post on her Instagram story informing people that it is just about impossible to maintain “social distancing” while playing a game where every player is touching and sweating on the same volleyball for multiple hours.
“There’s no responsible way to play volleyball or do anything with anyone outside of who you live with,” she wrote. “Everyone has a responsibility. Please stop playing with your teammate or getting lessons from a coach.”
For most, Los Angeles County has removed the temptation, be it a popular decision or not.
“We want to get outside,” Evans said. “We want to exercise, we want to have fun, we want to continue to get better, but they took down all the nets so it’s pretty frustrating and everybody’s judging us for coming out here, getting reps, even if we’re social distancing, not high-fiving, all that good stuff. It’s pretty frustrating to say the least.”