Monday morning, on Instagram, Joel Tudor posted an image of a surfer walking down an empty beach with a barreling wave in the background. The caption says, simply: “Only thing they can’t close!”
Except, maybe they can?
Italy, one of the countries hit hardest by the COVID-19 pandemic, went on full lockdown last week, closing all schools, shops and sporting events, officials ordering people to stay home, except for essential travel. And, as it turns out, that order extends to the beach, with fines for those who disobey the rules. According to Italian surfer Nik Zanella, “the ban on outdoor activities will be in place till April 03. While it doesn’t mention surfing explicitly, every time you go out of your house you need to fill a self-declaration that states where you go and why.” Zanella continues: “Police stop you, analyze what you wrote and decide if your outing is legit. If not you get a fine of 209 euro and the infraction goes into your legal record. That may backfire on you if you apply for a public job, like being a teacher for example, where your record must be clean. It’s not fun and you may even end up in jail.”
Other European counties are following suit with beach closures. Yesterday Wavelength reported that “Portugal’s national maritime authority announced on its website that all beach-based sports and leisure activities involving crowds are now forbidden across the country, as well as on the islands of Madeira and the Azores.” And, according to the Associação Nacional de Surfistas (NSA), that ban extends into the ocean as well. The NSA had this to say on their Facebook Page: “Attention to all surfers: according to the orders of the captaincies of the port of Lisbon, Cascais and Peniche, surf is forbidden for groups of 5 people or more from the beaches north of Albufeira lake to Obidos lagoon. In addition to the already known total ban in Porto and Gaia.”
“Tough times over here, everyone locked themselves at home, and no one is really leaving their houses,” says Portuguese big-wave surfer Nic Von Rupp. “Beaches are closed, and they say for activities as well. I haven’t seen the ocean so I don’t know if it’s true or not. But I’m respecting the procedure.”
The same procedures are being applied to Spain as well. As reported by the UK Mirror this morning, “Spain is starting to close many of its beaches and banning tourists from swimming in another bid to stop the spread of coronavirus.” Magicseaweed spoke with Spanish charger Natxo Gonzalez, who explained that surfing, at the moment, seems to be off limits. “The police are on the streets trying to stop surfers going out,” he said. “It’s going to be pumping this week and empty! [laughs]. We are at home just going out to the supermarket and nothing else.”
“Everything is really sensitive right now,” says Spain’s Kepa Acero, currently in self-quarantine. “We can’t do anything: The only thing we can do is go for food, and for work, in some situations. It looks like a nuclear holocaust; there’s nobody in the streets and it’s pretty unreal. The day before yesterday was the last time people were surfing, and now there are fines from 600 euros to 30,000 euros if you do activity in the streets. In my Instagram profile, there is a video of a policeman waiting for surfers. But, we will pass through this all together, and I’m taking time to exercise at home, edit my travels, read and reflect. As humans we think we can control everything, and this proves how delicate we really are.”
At the time of writing, the beaches are still open in France, but apparently not for much longer. “The French president will talk tonight about closing the entire country and putting everyone in quarantine,” says stylish French logger Victoria Vergara. “So, yes our beaches and water will be closed starting tomorrow, as is the case in Spain.”
Several busy beaches have been closed in Lima, Peru and authorities in Puerto Rico are implementing similar measures. According to Puerto Rican tube-hound Brian Toth, the beaches in PR are closed, with a $5,000 fine and up to 6-months in jail for anyone that violates the rule.
Zanella, who was also in lockdown in China last month (he was living/working there during the first outbreak), offers his perspective on the necessity of a self-distancing. “Do you really want to be such a punk and break the law during a global epidemic? What if you have an accident while surfing and go to the hospital and get the virus there then pass it on to your aging parents?” Zanella wrote to us via email this morning from the front lines in Italy. “Liberal democracies like Italy and the US rely on the free behavior of individuals. They tell you what is right (social distancing for example) and they may or may not implement a strict control. It’s everyone’s interest to do what is best for the country and for the general health, in this case, stay home, limit interaction, wash hands. All the surfers I know are in self-quarantine now.”
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