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Local surfer taking advantage of reopened Duval beaches even with restrictions

Law enforcement and lifeguards can be seen enforcing rules on the first day that Jacksonville area beaches reopened with limitations.

Duval County beaches are back open with some limitations.

Four weeks ago, they closed due to COVID-19 concerns. On April 17, the beaches are now available for exercise and physical activities, not lounging or sunbathing.

Surfing is one popular activity that many are looking forward to enjoying.

Surfer Frank O’Rourke says he is one of many that came back out when the beaches reopened, but, he plans to practice social distancing on the water.

O’Rourke was bitten by a shark on Jacksonville Beach in July of 2019 and was sidelined from surfing.

“I waited about a week or two before I went back out there, I thought, you can’t get struck by lightning twice,” he said.

O’Rourke's not taking the limited beach opening for granted. He visited the beach by 37th Avenue South.

Duval County beaches open from 6 a.m. to 11 a.m. and from 5 p.m. to 8 p.m. for exercise only.

Activities like walking, biking, fishing, running, walking the pets are allowed. Sunbathing, towels, chairs or coolers are prohibited.

First responders and lifeguards will be monitoring the shores to ensure people are practicing social distancing.

Atlantic Beach Mayor Ellen Glasser saying this was a carefully thought out decision.

While officials say the curve appears to be flattening, people must keep their distance in order to get back to normal.

“Be mindful of the risk you take when you go through share access points, because we’re watching, and if we think that'll cause a problem we’ll pull this back,” Glasser said.

O’Rourke says he plans to follow the social distancing guidelines.

“I’m pushing a positive message to my friends, ‘hey guys, let’s not be in big groups, let’s get out there and spread out and enjoy ourselves because we finally get to surf again,’” O’Rourke said.

The beaches mayors advise people to swim or surf at your own risk and if possible stay within 500 feet of the lifeguard chairs.