It was an interesting week, right? Here in California, we are about a month away from the governor’s order to stay home, many cities have completely closed their beaches under the threat of fines of US $ 1,000, and crowds of protesters are protesting in the streets as part of “rallies for freedom.” Some of these protesters are surfers, very similar to those who grabbed the headlines last week at Encinitas, which posted them under Cardiff Kook with the words: “Communists can't surf” and “Give me waves or give me COVID.” Truly stunning things.
It seems that last week many surfers turned a corner in their feelings about how we should approach the COVID-19 pandemic. And a lot of this is probably due to the cumulative effect of several viral videos on social networks: the police shoot a surfer in Costa Rica, a lifeguard chasing a SUPER around an empty Malibu, etc. Some of these scenes look horrific, others are funny, all they would have been impossible to imagine before this pandemic. But the most important of these videos was undoubtedly the La Jolla video, which opens onto the beach when a lifeboat approaches it and then rushes out onto the street, where dozens of spectators without shoulders greet. The comment section of a post written by La Jolla surfer Derek Dunphy goes crazy for obvious reasons – a child cannot travel alone, but a bunch of assholes on the ground can stand close enough to feel each other?
The reaction of the people in the video was focused on unequal enforcement, which makes sense – these pedestrians should be told to stone. But many also seemed to see that the image of a lone surfer who had been kicked out of the water in itself was proof that the ban on surfing in San Diego was stupid and unnecessary – not to mention that it was not set for prevent the lone surfer from surfing, but to prevent groups of people from gathering in lines at the beaches and parking lots.
The day after this video was released, we thought that we would conduct a survey on Instagram to see where surfers fell on this problem at this particularly strange moment in time and received replies from about 6,000 people. Here are the results that we will try to unpack below:
Question 1: Do you live in an area where surfing is restricted?
Question 2: Do you think surfers in your area will practice safe social distance if restrictions are lifted?
Question 3: Do you think surfing should be limited at this time?
Question 4: Do you think the debate about surfing restrictions is important right now?
Question 5: Have you or any of your friends been sick with COVID-19?
Question 6: Did you lose your job or cut your salary due to COVID-19?
Question 7: Do you work at the forefront (healthcare, grocer, food delivery, etc.)?
The vast majority of respondents clearly disagree with the limitations of surfing (Question 3), and this should probably not be surprising based on their answers to Questions 5-7. Most respondents said they did not work at the forefront of a pandemic, they did not know anyone who was sick, and they had not joined the millions of recently unemployed since the pandemic began – for them, COVID-19 is what really exists only abstract, in other words. On the other hand, the government’s reaction is likely to have a huge impact on their lives, as most respondents claim to live in areas where surfing was restricted (along with all other things, we can safely assume).
At least in the case of California, this probably reflects the double-edged sword of the “stay at home” orders: when everyone is at home, fewer people get sick, and the situation looks rather boring if you are not working at the forefront or know some sick people. People zoom with their friends and families, they joke about the run they take from their sweatpants, they drink The King of the Tigers, etc. They begin to see restrictions as an overreaction to the problem. They look out the window and don’t see the burning world, so why not surf? This is a false sense of security, but it is easy to feel if you are not experiencing the most dramatic consequences of a first-hand pandemic.
For me, the most interesting results are the answer to question 4: “Do you think the debate about surfing restrictions is important right now? Of course, we are talking about the moment when hospital workers risk their lives to help people without the protective equipment that they need. When more than 160,000 people died from COVID-19 and more than 2 million became infected worldwide. When millions of Americans lose their jobs every week as a result of economic consequences. It sounds pointless to think that we should focus on surfing, but do I understand it to some extent. We are in the middle of a pandemic, possibly the most significant global event that will happen in our lives, and many of us cannot do what makes us feel better — surfing. People are upset about this, and it may be easier to curse the tangible influence of the government than the abstract effect of the virus, even if the latter would be much more tangible if not for the first.
What is most frustrating in this discussion is the fact that most of us know that we will be able to practice safe social distance while surfing, if given the opportunity (as shown in question 2). Most surfers go from the house to the parking lot to the top and back, not getting 6 feet from another person, even at normal times. But there will always be morons who park their E-bike right next to their neighbors and roll out onto the lower flyovers with a depth of 100 people. Unfortunately, responsible government officials cannot effectively deal with the pandemic by creating policies based on our best behavior, they must do it based on our worst. And now these officials are understandably cautious – they are less concerned about how many waves we missed last month than they no longer want to fill the ice rinks with corpses.
I think this is good. Many of you probably agree. Some of you obviously do not know. But no matter how we relate to the constraints at the moment, the fact is that they will not last forever. As the number of new cases decreases and the risk of transmission decreases, so do the restrictions. At first, slowly, and possibly with some setbacks, if cases respond, but it does. And then we can return to being selfish in our usual way of simply taking a lot of waves without any particular consequences.
This article originally appeared on Surfer.com and has been republished with permission.
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