Sat, 25 April 2020

It's not looking good for surfing in Stage 4 of the Covid-19 lockdown. The briefing today said only limited exercise will be allowed, with details to follow next week, writes Spike.


STILL BANNED? Surfers are likely to endure more pain in the coming weeks. Photo Unsplash

The announcement this morning prioritised measures that will allow economic recovery, with Minister Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma keeping us on tenterhooks for ages before finally getting to the "recreational recovery" outlined by Stage 4. Limited exercise would be allowed but detailed regulations would only be published on Thursday under very strict conditions: "We are discouraging people to be on the street. There will be no group walking or jogging. The details will be spelled out in the regulations on Thursday," she said.

There is no reason, unless we can pull off a national scoop by finding a surfer in the corridors of power, that surfing will be separated as an activity under 'beach use'. There is very little we can do to persuade government otherwise. As many surfers have reminded us, such as veteran kiter and surfer Peter Petersen: "What about the lady who'd like to walk her dog on the beach? Just like we'll be saying: 'If you can cycle, you should be able to surf.' Difficult times."

It's awkward because no matter how you spin it, surfers look entitled and will be accused of trying to be 'special'.It is going to be difficult to prove to government that surfing is a solitary pursuit that can be singled out as a special exception to a beach ban. It's awkward because no matter how you spin it, surfers look entitled and will be accused of trying to be "special", which is not in the spirit of the sacrifices other people are making. Yes, the ocean is healthy but the government does not differentiate between the lone surfer walking down the beach to surf with a small group of widely spaced surfers at a spot, and the person who sits on the beach with hundreds of others. The government's mandate is to stop the virus spreading, and ensuring police resources are not being wasted on policing social distancing in public spaces. The focus is on easing some business restrictions to jumpstart the economy, with only small concessions for personal recreational activity. Gyms remain shut. Public gatherings are not allowed. Same is likely for beaches. Sadly. We have to suck it up, I suppose. stages

STAGE FOUR: Cyril suggested that some exercise will be allowed, but what about surfing?

NSW-signIn an interesting possible parallel, San Diego has decided, as from Monday, to reopen certain beaches due to a very well researched motivation by residents. Part of the regulation - just as we have been saying - is that you can cross the beach to get to the surf, but you can't dawdle or stop on the journey. In other words, the beaches remain closed but may only act as a corridor to the sea.

As Kommetjie surfer Charles Didcott said yesterday: the regulations were "being made up as we go along, with decisions driven by the need to reduce the spread of the virus." This encourages a blanket ban that does not take into account legitimate possibilities like those outlined in the San Diego motivation above. This may be the way.

The problem remains: how do we get our good intentions across to the inner circle of government, aka President Cyrl Ramaphosa, Health Minister Zweli Mkhize and Professor Salim Abdool Karim, the Covid-19 advisor? Their strategy is very conservative, so it remains unlikely. Is it even worth pursuing?

We can certainly try to show Government during their deliberations about the regulations for Stage 4 before Thursday "that we will adhere to physical distancing while surfing. This includes how we travel to a surf spot, and how we behave at that surf spot" - any ideas?

The regulations are slowly becoming less restrictive in a gradual, conservative rollout in stages, with conditions and regulations that may vary from province to province. A responsible way to do it would be how it is rolled out in Australia. (See New South Wales sign above right) or what they have done in New Zealand, referring to recreational activities taking place in a socially distanced "bubble".

"Authorities have the power to reverse any loosening of regulations pertaining to surfing. They will do this if they feel that allowing surfing is contributing to the spread of the virus. That would be catastrophic for surfing," he says, saying that such a decision could be imposed right through the flu season, which is (gulp) the whole of winter.

Now is the time to show that we will keep social distancing and promise to:

  • GO BY YOURSELF (only exception is a member of your household)
  • PADDLE OUT, CATCH WAVES, GO HOME. No chilling at the beach

"We all love nothing better than chilling at the beach and going for a surf with our mates. If we are given the privilege of getting back in the water in the not too distant future, and want to keep it, we will have to change our ‘normal’ behaviour.

"By undertaking to surf responsibly, and then demonstrating that we are capable of doing this, we stand a chance of getting, and keeping, surfing back on the “permitted exercises” list," Didcott said.

aspectsofstage4 partsofcountry


Robin Auld
0 #5 MrRobin Auld 2020-04-25 22:04
A case could be made to the minister as in Mthethwa, but I'm wondering if the WP provincial Minister for sport Anroux Marais would have any say. There does seem to be acknowledgement of different regions coming in. Perhaps a letter with a bunch of signatories drafted by someone (Paul Botha?) might be worth a shot.
Jason Porter
0 #4 MrJason Porter 2020-04-25 19:05
What level is surfing expected to be allowed again?
Robin Auld
+7 #3 MrRobin Auld 2020-04-25 15:55
Been watching clips in hawai where the beach is closed, but the ocean is open. You can be on the beach if you're en route to the ocean to surf. Fishing boats are going out here so the door is kind open. . That would seem to be the only way to avoid the problem of people flocking to the beach, but how to make the case I have no idea!
Grant Renecle
+2 #2 MrGrant Renecle 2020-04-25 15:18
The Rules are clear as daylight and that’s it! Beaches remain closed except to cross and hit the water and return to your car !
The question is “Where are the Surfing Bodies?” They should have direct access to the Minister of Sport and lay the VALID cause on the Table !???
House Arrest
+1 #1 MrHouse Arrest 2020-04-25 13:27
Yeah, surfing has been banned in Namibia, and their lockdown is basically like our Lockdown Level 4. Exercise is allowed, but there surfing is considered a recreational activity and not exercise. Perhaps we need to get our professional surfers to collectively draft a letter to the Minister explaining how surfing is practised. That the beach is only used a space to cross to get to the water and that we do not sit on top of each other in the water. It is not a contact sport. It is not a team sport. Even though we all share a spot, it is a solitary pursuit.

Let's not start another petition! A well written (good spirited) letter, that is maybe first shared on this platform for more surfers' inputs to refine it, could go a long way when presented to the Minister through the right channels.

Also, we might need to get our local beach closures lifted somehow.
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