1 May, 2020 1 May, 2020

To Surf or Not to Surf

Many (both globally and nationally) have hailed the draconian-style lockdown in South Africa as a major success by an African country to combat and halt the spread of Covid-19. But as the days have meandered on, more and more who are directly affected by the economic stranglehold of the lockdown have changed or fortified their views against such an authoritarian governance. After five weeks of suppressing the personal freedoms we all took for granted – things like surfing, the controversial moral, ethical and religious question of the week had to be answered. To surf or not to surf? Today we decided.

*All images © AVG

Watching the sun set on Level 5 lockdown across the Atlantic last night, and waking up to a “new” dawn in Level 4 in Kommetjie it was blindingly obvious that many of the surfing residents in the Deep South had made their decision and were sticking to it. Some 30 plus surfers dotted the lineup of the Outer Kom as it got dark last night – maintaining fairly good social distancing practice. A premonition of what was to come. Then this morning, through the windless haze surfers, many more of them, could be seen scurrying across the Kom boulders and the Long Beach sand to feed their stoke starved souls. The conditions this morning weren’t epic by any means. Not the kind of day, in my opinion, you would risk arrest and or a hefty fine from the authorities for. A light onshore wafted in over the 4-5ft waves – affected by a typical Cape morning sickness. But for many it wasn’t about how good the waves were; it was about freedom and desperation. Fortunately the authorities were in a forgiving and downright chilled-out mood. Just before the 9am curfew some 20 South African Police Services (SAPS) vehicles pulled into the empty Long Beach car park and proceeded to call in the surfers and make a show of force. Upon seeing so many dressed in dark blue with blue lights flashing on top, the surfers quickly dispersed left and right, scurrying over the rocks like kelp lice before a cold-front. I saw one surfer make a dash for the manatoka bushes lining the “Pebbles” right. He stashed his board and made a run for his car, quickly throwing a pair of jeans and hoody over his wet wetsuit. He needn’t have bothered. I asked a senior ranking officer if they were here to arrest anyone? She casually and confidently replied, “no. Not today. This is just educational. We’re not going to arrest anyone yet.” After warning a few of the bystanders that curfew was close to being in effect, the authorities got in their vehicles, pulled out of the parking lot and drove off.

Tomorrow is another day. We’ll see how that pans out.

MFeb not risking it

There has been much speculation as too when beaches will reopen as they have done in many locations around the world. Will they open in Level 3? Or will we have to wait for Level 1? How long will we remain in Level 4? Nobody knows. But if today’s crowded lineups said anything, it’s that most Kommetjie surfers aren’t waiting for official answers.

Jumping onto my bike, camera slung around my shoulder I thought again about my own decision… to surf or not? Setting my right foot to the peddle I smelt something disgusting… I had just stood in a giant, freshly deposited dog turd. Looking up I noticed the dog – well known for not being on a lead, and his owner – well known for not picking up her dog’s landmines and I couldn’t help but think that this might be another premonition of things to come.

24 Comments

  1. Pamela
    1 May, 2020 at 7:32 pm · Reply

    What a fabulously written article, great humour as we all grow weary of lockdown.

  2. Ezan
    1 May, 2020 at 7:55 pm · Reply

    I think that surfing and other activities that help to ease the cabin fever and mental strain that we are all facing should be allowed as long as social distancing is maintained.
    Let us surf.
    Hats off to the brave few who paddled out.

  3. Chip
    1 May, 2020 at 7:57 pm · Reply

    great article,sums it up spot-on.

  4. Grant Renecle
    1 May, 2020 at 8:22 pm · Reply

    Great Article ! Do what is being done worldwide! Beaches closed Surfing permitted !
    There loads more higher risk of transmission activity going on than surfing !
    There is no logic in keeping surfers out of the water !! None !
    Take care All !!

  5. GForce
    1 May, 2020 at 9:11 pm · Reply

    Aloha. Stoked I had a some waves with a few like minded mates on May 1st. Thanks for joining me guys. Had a good talk to the law officers today. We were mutually respectful and I explained to them that surfing is a big part of surfers culture and that there are all sorts of things going on right now that don’t make sense. I explained how we do respect social distancing and also asked the police if their nephews, nieces, cousins, aunties and uncles were not suffering terribly under these strange current “laws”. I also explained that our Kids are lifeguards and need to keep fit. I told them that their warning falls on deaf ears….Surfers need to surf and we will be back out there tomorrow and we will keep respecting social distancing. Don’t hang out in the car parks! They didn’t take me name, just told me to go home. Surfers are a tribe who share and give a good, healthy vibe. Good luck out there tomorrow guys.

  6. Jane Franz
    1 May, 2020 at 9:15 pm · Reply

    Zero reason to keep water sports on the ocean on hold. Especially surfing. Totally pointless rules lead people to question all other rules… they negate all the good intentions. Feeling abused leads one to buck the system.

  7. Fr
    1 May, 2020 at 11:02 pm · Reply

    I would love to surf again.
    A surfer from France

  8. Beulah
    2 May, 2020 at 12:08 am · Reply

    For humans overall health and wellbeing all of us need to enjoy and interact with nature. In a socially and environmentally conscious and respectful way. However, the paradox was off course the dog poo … There will always be someone to stuff things up! 😜 Like the surfers in kommetjie unreasonable lockdown measures were challenged despite the obvious obstacles. It was a great read of what’s happening and not the mediocre, constant news reports filtered through the mass media. Great.

  9. Heide
    2 May, 2020 at 3:50 am · Reply

    Love the way you write! Thanks for sharing in such a powerful way!

  10. WayneK
    2 May, 2020 at 6:46 am · Reply

    Frikkin Kommetjie holier than thou idiots stuffing it up for everyone
    Like we all don’t want to surf
    Illegal civil disobedience
    Selfish bunch
    I believe lead by example
    What a poor image for our community
    Fragmenting all the more
    I have epic view over jbay and the waves which have been good but out of respect for this virus, law, south africa, cool vibes and the health of my family and community I will wait till we may before going for a paddle

  11. Stephen S
    2 May, 2020 at 8:22 am · Reply

    Great article….wish these kom skom could just grow up! Entitlement at its finest….sis okes…now the world lumps us in the same box as you boxes.Not one of you are heroes. Mandela was a true hero…looking him up on Google if you have electricity down there.You all the owners of the beast who drops drolls for the next oke…but hey people are dying who cares right! Till a family member of yours dies with out you seeing them again or burying them. Will surfing still be everything then? As long as you can surf hey! Social idiot’s.

  12. Need my stoke
    2 May, 2020 at 8:50 am · Reply

    Very good article but I feel this is a personal question to surf or not to surf, I have not surfed at all this lockdown but what about Mental Health . I need to surf for me to surfing is my life line. The only place where my mind don’t think and where I can breathe. What is this not doing to people like me and there are lots of us that this is how we survive daily. So to judge these surfers for surfing I don’t think is right you do not know what is happening behind close doors.People like me could loose their lives so if we want to take the chance with the virus let’s us we are totally stuffed anyway. I say let us choose for ourselves don’t judge. There is a person sitting out at back line now that needs that surf more that you will ever know

  13. WayneK
    2 May, 2020 at 9:26 am · Reply

    And the smokers, drinkers, socializers, gymers, hikers, jobless, hungry, medically vulnerable etc etc
    Our Mental health so much more important than anyone else
    It is not a Personal thing it’s an unprecedented global issue
    The only way for us to get the results of countries that have flattened the curve is if everyone can see we all affected and show enough respect for the collective
    Yes many fingers can be pointed for various reason but why should Surfing want to add to the issues
    Law enforcement is stretched enough
    Go home be obedient so they can put their energies elsewhere like trying to help, educate and control the more destitute communities and members of society

  14. Brandon
    2 May, 2020 at 10:00 am · Reply

    Great article AVG.

    Unfortunately the logic has been lost all together with what’s “ok” and what’s not.

    For most of us our lives are centered around the ocean but because we are such a small part of the population we are not considered. Fair enough as government have more pressing issues to deal with.

    This being said, It is unbelievable that the ocean remains closed for recreational use. The government would rather you go to a super market and buy food handled and packaged by multiple different people but I am not allowed to Use the ocean to collect food or to use it for exercise.

    You can’t help but think we are going backwards.

    The governments funding and resources being used to police and enforce these illogical restrictions might be better served elsewhere.

    Physical and mental well-being will fight the virus more effectively than fear-stricken isolation.

  15. Trevor Gray
    2 May, 2020 at 11:19 am · Reply

    The irony of the responses are the true indicators of where we stand as a nation. One bunch who equate surfing with killing off the human race. The actions of the surfers likened to death agents spewing the deadly nerve gas like poison amongst the virtuous citizens. Labelled as entitled and selfish miscreants emanating from a particular area so geographic bias is added to the toxic brew.If i can’t neither can you is another oft spewed argument. Then of course the name of Nelson Mandela and by extension the sacrifice of freedom mantra rears it’s fuzzy head!
    All the above shows how the Koolade of fear and the Stockholm syndrome of victimhood has infiltrated our daily lives. After 25 years and a respite from a brutal regime one would have thought that the days of pimping on others would be over. That the kragdigheid of Apartheid would never rear it’s head again. Instead it is steaming ahead. As in the past when surfing was banned from Muizenberg, a bunch of young folk revolted and ultimately sanity was achieved. ironically the past day’s response to a edict without consultation was not lauded or applauded. The simple rationale of those surfing was ignored. That their actions endangered no one was not acknowledged. That their activity was as acceptable as running or cycling was dismissed as entitled. That their actions were making it worse for “everybody” was the rallying cry for universally abused victims who seek martyrdom in compliance.
    Nelson Mandela was no saint and he advocated armed struggle which resulted in innocent non combatants being slaughtered. However to suggest his legacy is imperilled is absurd, one should rather look to Gandhi for leadership in this matter!

  16. WayneK
    2 May, 2020 at 12:47 pm · Reply

    Revolution in this context brah?
    Let’s talk about the virus rather because it’s impact is driving people further apart.
    In basic terms it’s swings from over the top germaphobe to those walking around unprotected without sufficient distancing. The disdain existing between those extremes.
    My perspective about the virus comes from studying public health with epidemiology being major.
    When I saw this crop up in China I thought what a f…up because to be communicable without symptoms is scary . Ideally it should not have got out of China but that’s hindsight and many blunders by the world leaders have followed.
    I know there remains uncertainty and speculation about all aspects of the commincability of the virus.
    But let’s consider the spread
    Facts about the spread can easily seen http://www.covidvisualizer.com
    Lots of issues around figures obviously but look to the trends
    Look at curves for countries (click on)
    Look at Russia, India, Pakistan, Brazil
    See where the world is at and what happens if you let it go to far
    Look at Europe USA
    Look at our curve
    Please in your revolt don’t cause other elements of society to think its free for all and everyone revolts for their individual martyrdom (many highly ligitimate, as is ours)
    Please don’t let the revolt make your and other families sick and incur deaths
    Set an example and help people to stay well in all corners of our land
    This thing kills on average currently 7 in 100 people
    European average between 10 and 15 per 100
    We know we must move through governments levels to attain level 1 freedom
    It will be our districts that will move and if we can contribute to moving our district forward it can help bring us back closer together
    To rally around a common goal does that
    People will soon be calling district movement discriminatory, major cities are epicentres and their future prospects don’t look good
    This said it has been a long lockdown and desperation grows
    Let this small group of recreational ocean users suck it up and be average for a while
    The re-appreciation of what we have when we get past this virus will be enough for me

    • Greg Hart
      8 May, 2020 at 4:29 am · Reply

      Wayne – jus you have a lot to say hey. Where do you get your figures from? What complete rubbish! Try adding three zeros to those 100’s and you might be closer to the mark.

  17. Pieter
    2 May, 2020 at 1:16 pm · Reply

    These guys are legends!
    They have not been brainwashed like the rest of us fools that follow these irrational rules like sheep.

  18. Nic Bothma
    2 May, 2020 at 2:49 pm · Reply

    I’m saddened to see my surfing brothers and sisters surfing now and the whole issue that has been created about them. I think of the surfers involved in community feeding schemes like the 9 Miles Project who are not surfing now but using all their energy in getting out there and helping others instead of focusing on their own little need to surf. We will all surf again one day. Right now people need food not this. I am sure the surfers of Strandfontein need to surf way more than any other surfer in this country coming from compromised and vulnerable social conditions, but they are not, mostly because they sit in long lines waiting for food. It saddens me that so many people in these covid times place the ‘I’ before the ‘We’. But it uplifts me to see the many surfers with bigger minds and hearts and an eye on the horizon going out at day break into vulnerable communities across Cape Town to help with the dire need for food security amongst our poorest citizens instead of paddling out to pleasure themselves.

  19. Alan Yates
    2 May, 2020 at 4:09 pm · Reply

    Surfing by its very nature involves social distancing and viruses can’t swim. And, i for one, have never seen a single virus at backline.

  20. Bruce Anderson
    3 May, 2020 at 10:07 am · Reply

    I am really torn over this. On the one hand I would love to be out in the waves, the open, the fresh air, enjoying the freedom. I totally understand the threat to myself and others of the virus. The stats can be debated but the threat cannot be denied. The laws are overkill, I question whether they are scientifically based or being opportunistically hijacked by politics, but some rules are necessary. But respect for the law is also an imperative, can you partially break a law, can you break it just a little? Where is the tipping point? If those who can walk to the beach, who have wetsuits, are “suffering”, what about those surfers for whom “Surfing” was their escape but are now simply prioritizing survival? Which laws can they break to demonstrate their frustration? Show your dissatisfaction through legal actions.

  21. Bushy
    3 May, 2020 at 2:57 pm · Reply

    Be selfish and go surf while the rest of us who also love it are abstaining, but do us a favour and don’t trot out the “I need it for my sanity” mantra. Mental health issues like depression and anxiety are real.

  22. Greg Hart
    8 May, 2020 at 4:20 am · Reply

    What a complete waste of police resources! Spending all that money just to come and moan at a few surfers – how ridiculous! But then what isn’t ridiculous about the draconian lock-down restrictions, none of them make any sense whatsoever. You can’t exercise on ‘soft’ surfaces, only on paved ones!? What genius thought that one up and where is the scientific study to that informed that decision? Who decided which sports are ok to practice and which not? It seem to me that the measures in place do little to encourage physical distancing (everyone has to exercise in a short space of time – guaranteeing crowds) and even less to improve mental health (being in nature is good for you – why are we banned from natural spaces like the mountain and ocean?). Hats off to the Komskom for sticking it to the man and calling these ridiculous regulations out for what they – garbage!

  23. WayneK
    9 May, 2020 at 7:24 am · Reply

    Greg dude shame your big picture view is exceptionally limited
    World wide epidemiological experts are struggling to grapple with the best practices and even the most sophisticated countries have locked down.
    Humans all over are taking strain and we all want a way out.
    But to be angry with decision makers for not being perfect and not having the answers is to use you favourite word ridiculous. Be glad it’s not you that has to make decisions that will impact millions of lives one way or the other.
    I’m sure your choice would heavily piss off many.
    Yes I have a lot to say when people expose our culture as a selfish self entitled bunch
    But hey such is life many different ways to approach it and so much human diversity
    Im comfortable with my view and won’t be swayed by someone with no big picture ideas or solutions
    Let’s hope we all get some good waves, barrels and bashes soon
    But for now as per the majority lets chill and as per MFebs statement consider those in far worse situations than ourselves

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