For the first time in over two months, Europe’s Atlantic lineups, from the Arctic Circle down to the Gibraltar Straits are open for surfers
Five days after lockdown officially ended in France a week ago (11/05), and after some 66 days banned from the nation’s lineups, French surfers were allowed back in the water this weekend.
With Spain and Portugal opening their beaches to surfers (but not bodysurfers in Portugal’s case) at the start of May, with France joining this past weekend, lineups across continental Europe are now open for surfing – within the constraints of distancing rules – from the bottom of Portugal all the way up through Scandinavia.
While a select few regions in Brittany allowed surfing when lockdown initially ended last week, France’s main surfing areas like Les Landes and the Basque Country as well as Mediterranean breaks in the SE officially opened on Saturday at 9am sharp, after a flurry of bureaucratic activity last week as to how exactly to ensure distancing was maintained across the country’s thousands of km’s of coastline.
It seems the main outcome of those meetings was essentially to put ‘way in / way out’ barriers on the entrances to beaches to separate stoke seekers heading to and away from the surf.
While there was talk of surfing before 9am being a finable offence, and a fair few police armed to the teeth stomping the beach car parks, the main hindrance to proceedings from first light Saturday was a pesky north wind that rendered the modest swell less than epic.
It seems, for now at least, the days of being chased by police helicopter and arrested at gunpoint are largely behind us.
As is the way of things, after two months of enticing, glassy surf being off limits, as soon as surfing was permitted again, a devilish breeze kept things fairly sloppy all weekend.
Nevertheless, those who did paddle out made up surely the most overtly stoked 2ft onshore crowd ever assembled in the 5th Republic.
Even Italy, the initial epicentre of the Covid19 outbreak in Europe and source of the harrowing emergency room images that went around the world in part contributing to the almost universal lockdown, is back surfing, albeit with caution.
“The pandemic is not over,” said Italian pro Roby D’Amico, “but nevertheless we’ve been given the freedom to come back and breathe some quality sea air, which makes us really happy and gives us the strength to face this difficult period for everyone.”
Meanwhile, the islands of United Kingdom remain the sick man of Europe to varying degrees, with different rules and advice applying in different coastlines across the country.
While the English find themselves to varying degrees somewhere between alert and confused, their Welsh, Scottish and Northern Irish bredren and sistren are still on unmodified lockdown measures until June 1st.
If you’ve a devolved government and a UK passport, it’s as you were.
While surfing has never been outlawed as such in Wales, the social stigma of Covid shaming has kept many out of the water who would otherwise have surfed, pending an announcement from the Welsh Surf Federation expected today after consultations with the Cardiff government.
Up until today, the WSF advice – despite the nation’s kayakers hitting their waters en masse last week, mirrored by Scotland and NI surfing federations has been to stay out of the water.
With surf shops opening up again across Europe, and shapers having been mowing foam consistently throughout lockdown, it seems surfboards are in little danger of going the way of toilet roll or self-raising flour in terms of scarcity.
Once the moral and or legal dilemmas have been resolved, and pending the reconciliation of financial ones; wave riders across Europe are hoping to return to more traditional quandaries; whether to order your well deserved post lockdown newbie as a custom, or simply go off the rack.
Cover image: Leo Fioravanti revels in French beachbreak bliss. While surfing is allowed again in the Hossegor region, whether then Quik Pro France returns this autumn, and/or ever as a CT event, remains to be seen. Photo: Bosko