Gray skies couldn’t keep visitors out of Malibu’s waters this Memorial Day, with more than 363,000 beachgoers coming in during the three-day holiday weekend, resulting in over 150 ocean rescues.
Despite the colossal beach traffic and high number of ocean rescues, there was only one major medical assist that resulted in a hospital transport, after an assault took place near Zuma Lifeguard Tower Two.
“They were a possible transient who was assaulted by another transient, they were intoxicated as well, and they were transported to the hospital,” said LA County Lifeguard Captain Tim McNulty.
That type of medical transport is rare in Malibu, according to the lifeguard captain.
“It’s very uncommon. I would think areas where you have a large transient population, you probably see things like that more often; there are a few transients out here, but I haven’t heard of this sort of thing taking place very often,” said McNulty.
The attacker in that assault was not apprehended by sheriff ’s deputies, despite the holiday weekend kicking off the sheriff’s beach detail on Zuma Beach, which will run weekends until late June, at which time they’ll switch to daily beach patrols.
The visitor count was easily in the neighborhood of last year’s, when perfect weather and warm ocean temperatures drew a tallied 373,000 sunbathers, swimmers and surfers to Malibu’s sand.
McNulty said that the numbers for the weekend were “pretty standard,” by his measure, though they grew exponentially as the weekend went on.
“The weather wasn’t as nice on Saturday, so we probably didn’t have the attendance that we had Sunday and Monday. Each day the crowd got larger,” said McNulty.
This year, beach attendance started off slow, with just under 50,000 visitors on Saturday, growing to 106,000 on Sunday. On Memorial Day alone, over 207,000 visitors flocked to Malibu’s beaches, with 140,000 at Zuma Beach and the other 67,000 spread out amongst Malibu’s other oceanfront spots.
There were many more ocean rescues than average over the three days, with the total adding up to 165. Eighty-seven of those rescues occurred at Zuma Beach on Memorial Day itself.
According to McNulty, the high number of rescues is a result of more dangerous surf this year, compounded by the warm water inspiring higher numbers of sunbathers to take a dip in the water, especially late in the weekend when the sun came out.
“The water is warm, the ocean bottom right in the surf zone is pretty uneven, so we did have a number of rescues,” said McNulty, adding, “Every year it can vary, depending on the surf, the weather — those are the main contributors to why the activity would be different year to year.”
The end of June will also see lifeguard towers in Malibu and up and down the coast staffed full-time, with summer staffing beginning on June 22, according to McNulty.