Beaches draw big crowds over Memorial Day weekend

SANTA MONICA - Crowds flocked to the beaches for Memorial Day but tended to stay out of the cool water, resulting in fewer than normal rescues, county lifeguards said.

Bone-chilling 56 degree water greeted swimmers at Zuma Beach, where "it's so packed in some places people can't walk on the beach,'' said lifeguard Capt. Chuck Moore.

At Hermosa Beach, the big annual street art festival and the bike paths were big draws, Capt. Steve Moseley said.

Cool water temperatures — about 60 degrees in the South Bay — and a coastal breeze kept swimmers out of the water today, Moseley said. Saturday's warmer temperature drew more people in the water, he added.

The crowds also descended on Santa Monica Beach but stayed relatively away from the water, Capt. John Larson said.

"Yesterday was hot and no wind,'' he said. He said about 180,000 people were crowded onto Santa Monica beaches and there were about 20 routine rescuers — accidents on the bike paths and such. There appeared to be fewer calls today, he said.

Zuma Beach's Moore said it was "extremely crowded, perhaps 80,000 people'' and estimated that about a quarter of a million people went to Zuma Beach over the Memorial Day weekend.

Memorial Day beach attendance, Moore said, is hard to predict because the changes in weather.

But he noted that there were people in the water, "partly because there was not a lot of dangerous water currents and no wind.''

The biggest day for beach attendance tends to be the July 4 weekend, lifeguard agreed.