The day before South Africa’s Corona Virus lockdown and J-Bay was absolutely firing. Supers turned on and gave everyone goodbye kisses. The first day of lockdown, it was perfect and empty. Everyone pulled tight and did their bit to flatten the curve.
Or so we thought.
The fact that the lockdown coincided with the first significant J-Bay swell of 2020, had all the town’s surfers on edge, crying into their coffees and pacing their living rooms. Those with a view were tortured by it. But the town stood firm. None of the locals broke rank. The spectre of the contagious Corona Virus running rampant through impoverished communities with high numbers of immune-compromised individuals, was enough to keep everyone at home. As it should. Everyone except one dude.
Ping. WhatsApp. My mate Skollie. “You know there was one poes American who surfed from 9am to 1pm today at Supers while his chick sat on the beach.”
This was one of many such reports, received on the Zag wires about this flagrant break of protocol in J-Bay. The fact that he’s an American, here on an ill-timed holiday, pushed the scapegoat stakes even higher. (Zag tracked him down, check his unreserved apology below).
Surfers everywhere are prone to fits of exceptionalism, thinking we’re special, that the rules don’t fully apply to us. I’d go so far as to say that it’s ingrained into the DNA of surf culture. There have been several reports of people surfing in most of the beach communities around Cape Town. On the same day a St Francis local was stopped by the cops and turned around on his way to give Bruce’s a go. We’re ultimately a collection of rebels and opportunists. It’s how we’re wired.
But we do need to buy into this! We’ve got a 3-week window to make a dent in the viral transmission rate. The way we do that is through extreme social distancing, enforced by the lockdown announced by our Prez, Cyril Ramaphosa, earlier this week. In places like the UK, the US and Australia, where they’ve allowed running, walking the dog, cycling and yes, “isolated” surfing, the response of many has simply been “business as usual”. People simply crowd around the parks and beaches. And the virus keeps rising. This, in developed Western countries that have efficient and modern healthcare systems and a lot more financial momentum to get them through this. In South Africa, it’s a far starker reality.
When people see you surfing in the lockdown, it encourages them to do the same. And the effort to flatten the curve slowly unravels. If it works, this lockdown – and your role in it – will save thousands of lives. If that means suffering huge bouts of FOMO watching empty line-ups, then so be it. There will be many more waves for everyone in the future. Until then…
Stay safe. Stay home.
First off going surfing yesterday was dumb and I would like to apologize and acknowledge how wrong I was to the locals, the town of J-Bay, and the country of South Africa.
I added anger and anxiety to a tense situation and that is stupid. I totally get why the town of Jeffrey’s Bay would like to beat my ass.
I vow to stick to the rules, practicing social distancing and respect the severity of the situation. I guarantee you will not see me sitting at Supertubes or walking around town, or posting up in a parking lot. I do believe strongly in the positive health of surfing.
My hope and dream for the community is to stay healthy doing this lockdown and global pandemic. I am with South Africa’s efforts to fight this pandemic and I will be doing my part by staying out of the water and respecting the rules established for lockdown.
Dr. Joe from San Francisco