Last week President Cyril Ramaphosa announced that beaches and parks would be open for exercise and the South African surfing collective drew breath, hoping that finally the 65 day government imposed ban on surfing would come to an end Monday 01 June!
However, just like the reversal on tobacco sales under Lockdown Level 4, after Minister Nkosazana Zuma, slowly took us through her Level 3 briefing, it became clear that even though religious gatherings of up to 50 people would be tolerated, beaches and parks would, in fact, remain closed under Level 3 Lockdown. Leaving the SA surf community perplexed as to whether we’d be allowed to surf after all. The answer to that STILL remains to be seen.
By now most surfers’ patience has grown very thin, if not already entirely exhausted – so when this week’s cold front passed and pearler surfing conditions lined up across the country yesterday, many surfers unable to contain themselves, slipped into the brine to celebrate, regardless of the precise legality of our beloved activity during the Covid19 Lockdown.
To confuse matters further, on Cape Talk Radio this morning, Deputy Minister of Co-operative Governance and Traditional Affairs, Obed Bapela said, “surfing is not a contact sport, but because the beaches are still regulated, and are not opened fully, it means those people must have permits to be accessing the beach.”
This led to a flurry of inquiries at Surfing South Africa from desperate surfers looking for these permits, which, as yet, do not exist.
But what is the status come Monday? And what can we do to hasten a responsible, socially-distanced and legal return to the ocean?
The short answer is that no one is sure. But Surfing South Africa is on the program, as they promised earlier this week, “we assure that every effort is being made to enable recreational surfing to be restored as soon as possible.”
Today, SSA reports that “various sports federations came together to discuss the future and phased return to sport. These sports federations have put strong risk mitigation strategies and policies in place based upon international best practice and in line with government regulations. These non-contact sports codes include Gymnastics, Swimming, Golf, Rowing, Surfing, Canoeing, Cycling, Cricket and Tennis.”
They argue: “The latest guidelines released by the government, professional non-contact sport will be permitted but ignores recreational sport and leaves many federations in a desperate financial battle. All sports offer work opportunities at all levels from recreational to professional and many sports clubs, coaches, trainers, workers and semi-professional athletes face financial ruin should sport on all levels remain prohibited.”
“For the sake of the survival of the sports economy during the Covid-19 lockdown, these federations appealed to government to consider the economic and health impact of restricting organised sport in South Africa.”
Hopefully this group engagement from a wide body of sporting codes, through the correct channels, will deliver a favourable result. We’re hoping for an announcement from the Sports Minister or the National Coronavirus Command Council over the weekend to clarify the situation.
But judging by yesterday, it would seem that regardless of the regulations, many of the country’s surfers have earmarked Monday 01 June as the official or unofficial resumption of the winter surf season. As a parting thought, it is our opinion that the longer the Lockdown surfing ban continues, while increasingly being perceived as illogical or unfair, the more surfers will chance their arm for a regular dose of vitamin Sea.
We’ll keep you posted.