If you’re a surfer who lives within walking distance of a break where surfing hasn’t been outlawed, you could be enjoying a rare upswing of the pandemic; the sparsest crowds in decades during a record-breaking warm, sunny spring.
While no commercial aircraft roar overhead spewing out climate collapse nasties, you pace alongside roadside verges growing back vigorously toward their natural, wildlife supporting state.
Traffic jams and beach parking hassles are but a distant memory, while an absence of surf schools gives the swash zone a pleasing, unmolested visual sweep.
Maybe you’re of the other camp, those who consider surfing the wrong thing to do, although that camp seems to have experienced some degree of desertion.
Whereas earlier on in lockdown, the morally strident, “I live 400m from (insert name of break), but I’m not…etc etc” seemed more commonplace, those folk seem to have gone more quiet.
Perhaps they’ve either started surfing, or stopped letting us know that they’re not.
Elsewhere, times have been tougher for some members of the surf community where surfing has been banned outright, with helicopers making arrests at gunpoint in France, and a general backdrop of curtain twitching, finger pointing, public shaming and of course, the social media spats.
After some two months of lockdown in much of mainland Europe, surfers are beginning to wonder more vociferously why it is that they aren’t allowed to access the lineup, while they see packed platforms on the Paris Metro.
While France’s lockdown is due to end next week, the prime minister’s announcement that beaches will remain closed was challenged by regional representatives, but so far upheld.
As a result, various groups have emerged urging surfers to paddle out, while maintaining physical distancing, anyway.
Facebook groups like Tous A L’eau A Partir du 11 (To The Water From the 11th) are urging folk to disobey the law and paddle out when lockdown ends.
Hashtags like #RendezNousNosPlages (give us back our beaches) are being used by mayors and local authorities in open defiance of central government.
Christophe Sueur, Mayor in St Pierre d’Oleron, , an island off France’s mid west coast has declared that beaches there will open anyway from Monday, via a poetic address to President Macron, published in local media.
Meanwhile, Portugal’s surfing ban lifted May 4th following, although interestingly, bodysurfing is still banned.
You can Morey Boogie till your heart’s content (and presumably SUP, foil, kneeboard etc) assuming physical distancing is observed, but whomping in your DaFins is still considered too much of a contagion risk.
Elsewhere, protests in South Africa yesterday, where about 30 surfers at Muizenberg and 70 at Bloubergstrand near Cape Town silently protested against beaches remaining closed saw two surfers arrested for not dispersing when challenged by police.
Protester Anton Fourie said, “To us, surfing is more than just being in the water it’s a culture, and not being able to surf is torture.”
“You have hundreds or thousands of people walking along the promenade at Sea Point to exercise every morning, but a few surfers are not allowed to go to the ocean, which I feel is much safer than the congestion at Sea Point.”
In the USA, where every and issue seems inextricably intertwined with party politics, Huntington Beach saw a bizarre mix of MAGA hat Trump supporters and other protesters demanding their constitutional rights be upheld near the site of the Vans US Open last month.
More recently, Orange County beaches, home to spots like Salt Creek, Trestles, Newport and HB remained closed over the past weekend despite the rest of California opening up its beaches.
Subsequently, beaches are reopening gradually in the OC in different allocated time slots, assuming beach use is for physical activity and not sunbathing.
Meanwhile, back on this side of the pond Northern Irish lineups remain out of bounds, with surfers being turned away at popular spots like Portrush.
I spoke to a friend this morning who told me he’d been sent home for skateboarding along the seafront near his house in Belfast.
And while skateboarders are much more accustomed to being on the wrong side of the law, whether or not French surfers do bumrush lineups from the Basque Country to Normandy next week, effectively staging the world’s first ever illegal mass paddle out, remains to be seen.