Surfing in a pandemic

Coronavirus is affecting lives worldwide. As the disease spreaded, more and more facilities were being shut down. First big sports events such as football matches and cycling tournaments. Then gyms and all indoor sports facilities. Then all amateur sport clubs. But what about outdoor sports?

First of all: let’s be clear that COVID-19 is a seriously dangerous virus and that it will affect many, many people deeply. As our dear fellow citizens that work in healthcare are preparing for hectic times, and putting their own health on the line, it seems futile to focus on leisure. I noticed that too.

Right when the Coronavirus started affecting the Netherlands I had a week of holiday planned. But I was so worried about my friends who work in the hospital that I noticed that ‘going on a happy holiday’ wasn’t on the top of my list.

Some of my surf whatsapp groups showed upbeat messages like “working from home = more surfing!” But I truly noticed that I feel like now is not the time to play around.

However, physical exercise remains vital now more than ever. Our world is getting much smaller which means that here in the Netherlands we see nature and outdoors as a healthy alternative to having drinks in the city. As surfing is a sport where distance between people is quite large and chances of infection seem low, here in the Netherlands we still can go surfing. For now.

Surf clubs are closed but it looks like the activity of surfing itself won’t be banned unless beaches are cleared. Which, of course, could happen.

Surfing beaches lockdown

My friend who is traveling by camper van in Spain, reported on Saturday, March 14th, that Guardia Civil (policemen) were patrolling the beaches of San Vicente de la Barquera. Visitors were no longer welcome on beaches. A few hours later, news started coming in about beaches in other coastal areas in Spain that were shut down to the public too. A few days later the whole country went in lockdown and people are not allowed to leave their home. Most people are not even thinking about going surfing. Helping each other in these crazy times comes first.

In Portugal it appears that, as I write this, surfing is still allowed as long as you’re with fewer than 5 people on one spot. Travelling in search of spots is off course a very irresponsible thing to do right now.

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No surf travel the next few weeks or months

The surf travel industry has known a period of immense growth the past decade. When I first traveled to Portugal in 2008 places like Sagres, Arrifana and Ericeira felt like a ‘discovery’. You’d easily get in touch with friendly Portuguese surfers that were happy to share waves with international visitors.

The bizarrely cheap flights from Northern Europe to Porto, Lisbon and Faro brought about a disbalance. On the one hand, it created a booming market for entrepreneurs in the tourist industry. On the other hand, it made the local Portuguese surfers having to put up with a huge influx of more and more visitors that all want a piece of the Portuguese waves.

It is crazy to think how many surf/yoga retreats have opened their doors the past few years, profiting from friendly weather, good waves and dead cheap airfare prices. It looks like this party is now over.

The tourist industry is being hit hard. People that earn a living in the surf tourism industry are suffering already. I think cutting back in fast ‘4 day surf fly/drive trips’ isn’t necessarily a bad thing but I do think that we have to see how we can help out each other in what’s to come. Maybe we can plan our next surf trip to family-owned hotels, visit small-scale restaurants instead of fast food chains, shop at local village stores instead of large supermarkets and order a coffee at small local surf shops.

Be safe and support each other! Let me know in the comments how your surfing life/business is being affected and how other surfers can help.

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