To the point. | Photo: White Monkey Surf Shop

Covid-19 wretchedness: Bali closes beaches, including Uluwatu, Padang, as island emerges as likely virus hot-spot; Amputee surfer arrested in northern Sumatra, deported!

The Indonesian jackboot comes down, hard…

If, as the saying goes, good news travels fast then, it must follow that the wretched moves with the swiftness of supersonic air travel.

In Bali, a Frenchman, seventy-two, has died while riding his scooter. Locals thought he’d had a heart attack. Covid.

A British woman, fifty-two, died in Denpasar hospital. Covid. The doctor who treated the woman is Covid poz.

At an Uluwatu guesthouse, paramedics were called when a young tourist from Kazakhstan was found wheezing and gasping for air. His wife, who had an abnormal fever, was also taken to Denpasar hospital.

So far only seventy-one people on the island of four million have been tested. And those tests have to be sent to Jakarta, with a week turnaround on results.

It ain’t a recipe for containment.

Meanwhile, tens of thousands of Hindus will be celebrating what’s called Nyepi or the famous Day of Silence today, pushing back against the Indonesian government’s call for social distancing.

The Bukit peninsula has closed for biz, the Uluwatu lineup resembling a 1950s version of itself, empty of surfers.

“Respect, go home or die,” is the motto from the never-shy-of-coming-foward Balinese.

(Who can forget the “anti-Communist” slaughters of 1965 when “Bali’s eagerness to kill was so great and spontaneous that, having initially provided logistic support, the Army eventually had to step in to prevent chaos.“)

And on the remote northern Sumatra island of Simeulue, which ain’t short of epic set-ups, surfers have been forcibly removed from resorts by masked soldiers and deported back to whence they came.

Alex Wakey, a one-legged surfer from Jersey (I know, I know, there’s a joke in there somewhere, a t-shirt to the writer of the best amputee gag in the comments), was staying at Aura Surf Resort when the army came “flexing their stupid lack of logic.”

“The world gets a cough so officials throw people out of places that are them fit and healthy, hypocritically tell us to lock ourselves away while they don’t,” Alex wrote to me while en route home via Qatar. “We’ve collectively used this planet as a bus bin and now wonder why it’s clearing the decks. People being all kind words and recipes online when we know they’ll go back to being selfish cunts the second they can walk the streets again. Nature is changing humans; just a shame it can’t change human nature.”

Ironbound (pictured) being feisty and "difficult."
Ironbound (pictured) being feisty and "difficult."

Sensing weakness in Florida, “tough, feisty” Great White shark peels away from pack and swims south, instead of north, horrifying researchers!

"[This] was one of the toughest sharks he has seen..."

It has long been suggested that members in good standing of the Animal Kingdom can sense events before they happen. Horses know when earthquakes will strike sometimes days before they do. Jackrabbits can smell a developing tornado forty minutes out and it is possible that Great White sharks can read the apocalypse and/or create it.

Thus, scientists are both fascinated and horrified by the actions of a 12-foot Great White shark named Ironbound. There he was, off the coast of North Carolina with many other Great White sharks when he suddenly peeled away and began heading to the Florida Keys.


According to OCEARCH, the research organization responsible for keeping mankind safe from the vicious apex predators:

Ironbound was first tagged by OCEARCH researchers last fall in the waters off West Ironbound Island, Nova Scotia, Canada. Since then, the 998-pound male has traveled more than 2,700 miles along the North American coast.

The tracking data indicates that the shark traveled all the way down to the tip of Florida before deciding to move north again. However, Ironbound seems to have had a change of heart, making a U-turn in order to head back towards the Gulf. It is currently not clear why.

The OCEARCH team say that Ironbound was a particularly challenging shark to catch and haul onto the research vessel.

“Our Fishing Master Captain Brett McBride said that [this] was one of the toughest sharks he has seen, especially considering [its] size,” OCEARCH Expedition Leader Chris Fischer previously told Newsweek. “At 12 foot, 4 inches and right about 1,000 pounds, [it] fought like some of the much bigger sharks we’ve encountered in places like Guadalupe Island, Mexico and South Africa that were 15 feet long or more.”

What is this unusually feisty beast sensing in southern Florida and/or Mexico’s Gulf?

Why there and not north with his “man-eating” brothers and sisters?

Coronavirus related?

Everything else is so we must assume. We might even assume that Ironbound has Coronavirus and is practicing social distancing but is also very hungry for age’d Parrotheads all chewy like leather.

Extremely scary.

More as the story develops.

From the Hear-Ye Hear-Ye Dept: Second largest surf website in the world issues rare edict, orders surfers to stop surfing!

"Bottom line: We need to take this thing seriously."

The Great Coronavirus Kerfuffle of ’20 sure has taken many strange and twisting turns. Economies locked down, otherwise healthy people “sheltering in place,” fear, paranoia, latex gloves and face masks once reserved solely for weed-whacking the yard worn into grocery stores that are employing Soviet-era systems to ensure there are enough blue jeans and toilet paper for all.

The strangest and most twisted turn, though, is Surfline’s CEO issuing a rare and king-like edict to surfers everywhere and let us read, together some choice bits from “A Statement From Surfline on Surfing and the Coronavirus.

With regard to surfing, it’s simple: If you can’t get to the beach alone and surf alone — no standing next to your buddies in the parking lot, no chilling on the beach with a group of people — please don’t. Stay six feet apart. Always. There are many asymptomatic folks out there who can spread this thing.

Michel Bourez is leading by example: “There is a big swell coming this weekend,” he posted. “Personally, I will not go to Teahupo’o to avoid the spread of the virus. We are all in the same boat and this is very serious. The sooner we make the effort to stay at home the sooner the spread of the virus will decrease.”

Bottom line: We need to take this thing seriously, which means we all practice social distancing. Be safe and let’s watch out for each other as best we can.

And shall you heed? Were you just waiting for this royal pronouncement to sort your day’s activities which is now limited to staying in doors and watching Surfline cams feature empty lineups?

Isn’t it ironic that the surf website most credited with crowding lineups from Lowers to Lunada Bay would only now recognize the trouble of surfing in a giant pack of folk? That the website known for pushing epoxy funboards onto legions of VALs would now be circumspect?

BeachGrit has always been a social distancing pioneer, having doubled the now accepted “six feet apart” rule from inception and preaching “when three or more surfers are gathered together, one of them shall become eaten by a shark.”

Ironic like rain on a wedding day. A free ride, when that ride has already been purchased.

Good advice that just wasn’t taken.


One day, and before y'know it, the bell is going to ring and the doors are going to open.

The view from a street corner in Santa Babs: “The rain will come. The fires will go out. The waves will come. We’ll have jobs and parties and bars again. Cling tightly to that optimism!”

If we just stick around, it’ll get better.

I went down to the beach to check the surf. The wind was already on it.

Too small. Wrong swell angle. Too much wind. Too much wrong.

I sat on a log and watched it a while, under the spell of that strange surfing delusion where we believe if we just stick around, it’ll get better.

I noticed that my toenails needed clipping. It did not get better.

My silly, frivolous town is shut down.

The succession of bars that lines the main street of town sits dark and empty. The wine people have left. Signs on the restaurant windows advertise take-out and toilet paper.

Normally, we have parades and parties for every possible occasion. If there isn’t an occasion, we make one up.

But all the parties are off now, for who knows how long.

People walk their dogs in the park and exchange gossip from a careful six-foot distance. Family-sized clusters dot the beach, passing carefully like ships in a dense fog.

I’ve seen more people outside in a day then I usually do in a week.

It’s a bizarre inverse of the evacuations. Everyone is still here, sheltered in place, stuck, as an invisible inferno passes over us.

We stand in line at the grocery store, which allows fifty households to enter at one time.

There’s not much to buy. I wander the aisles of empty shelves and wonder what everyone is doing with all that flour. Even if I could still buy dried beans, I wouldn’t know what to do with them. The pasta is long gone and forget about toilet paper.

There’s fresh-baked chocolate cake. So I buy that.

A few local restaurants sell groceries now. We’ll have eggs, pasta, bread, and milk for sale on Monday, they say. I ate my last slices of bread for lunch today. I consider going back to the grocery store for more chocolate cake. Instead, I ride to the deli and buy bread, pasta, cheese, a bottle of wine.

I wash my hands when I get back home and swipe my debit card with rubbing alchohol. Maybe it helps. Maybe it doesn’t.

There are, after all, limits to human agency.

I stand on the street corner and drink an espresso from a paper cup.

Cars roll by, desultory. The stores are closed.

Where is there to go? The coffee shop has stayed open, serving from a table set up at the front door.

I order espresso and tip ten dollars.

If we’ve learned anything here from the fires and the floods, it’s how to strive for kindness even when it all feels impossible.

The rain will come. The fires will go out. The waves will come. We’ll have jobs and parties and bars again someday.

Cling tightly to that optimism, and don’t let it go.

If we just stick around, it’ll get better.

I stand on the street corner with my paper cup and watch the clouds blow by.

I imagine a summer day at the beach, all of us there, just hanging around with nothing to do.

A surprise windswell brings us small, playful waves. Sometimes, the unexpected things are actually good.

I slide along through clear water and I watch as the rocks pass below my feet. Silver bait fish flash in the sun. Kelp waves lazily.

I get my share and lie in the warm sand.

Beers crack open. Someone hoots his friend down the line, as though the waves were twice the size.

The details don’t matter.

Just the bright sun and the cold beers and the good friends. The sun drops to the horizon. The water turns orange, then gray. Last call, the light fades.

I stand on the street corner, paper cup in hand, and dream of brighter days.

Report from Hossegor and the lockdown runners riding empty perfection: “The last time armed men imposed curfew here, the 3rd SS Panzer Division Totenkopf were patrolling Bayonne!”

Surfboards hidden under blackberry bushes, being chased by unmarked cars, lineups patrolled by predatory carrion crows. Life as a lockdown runner in southwest France.

“With the money from her accident, She bought herself a mobile home,
So at least she could get some enjoyment, Out of being alone”

Malcom Gladwell claimed Billy Bragg’s “Levi Stubbs’ Tears” has “the most depressing opening couplet in the history of modern music.”

But rather than a criticism, it was admiration. Gladwell points out how easy it is to make someone laugh, compared with cry.

Meanwhile, with mainland Europe on lockdown, everyone is urging each other to stay positive.

Surf fit Facebook lives. Yoga for kids. Book recommendations. Wim Hof YouTubes. How to meditate.

Broadly, “We got this.”

Last Friday’s spring equinox was the fourth day of lockdown, confinement total in France.

The last time armed men imposed curfew here, the 3rd SS Panzer Division Totenkopf were patrolling Bayonne.

The waves pumped for the first few days, pretty much as good as it gets. Offshore winds puffed lovingly all day, air temps soared around the low twenties, moderate tides kept everything right on the button.

Meanwhile, near total silence prevailed. Birdsong dominates the soundscape, with the recent arrivals from Africa, the hoopoes, bolding heralding the glorious arrival of spring.

Hours after the lockdown came in, an Aussie friend surfed perfect La Graviere with nobody out.

Not a soul.

Surely not performed since Dora or Maurice pretty much had free run of the joint.

He boasted his exploits on a surfboard factory’s WhatApp group. He got roundly chastised by colleagues – core surfers all –for playing fast and loose with pensioners’ lives.

Initially, there was some ambiguity as to whether or not surfing was actually allowed. President Macron said we could leave home briefly to do sport on our own.

So… surf alone?


As the lockdown came into force at noon last Tuesday, Gendarmes cleared the busy lineup at Capbreton and told the unlucky shredders that because of all the people in the lineup, surfing wasn’t an individual sport.

So then, if you paddled out and claimed a peak, would it therefore be illegal for anyone to paddle out and nause you?

Legally enforced lineup exclusivity, kind of Cloudbreak pre 2010, only without the predatory capitalist-backed thuggery?

Alas, not so.

Surfing was officially forbidden a couple of days later, along with beach going of any kind.

Fines of €135 euro were dished out to everyone in a wetsuit in the car park at Les Bourdaines. There were rumours of a San Sebastian local over the border in Spain copping a whopping €1000 for surfing Playa Gros.

If you’ve ever seen the quality of the waves at Playa Gros, a tenner would be considered steep.

But the main deterrent isn’t so much the criminal justice system, but the court of social media and its nurses crying after finishing a forty-eight-hour shift and not being able to buy pasta or wipe their bums.

The guy from the surfboard factory even left the WhatsApp group. Things were getting ugly alright.

Another friend was undeterred.

He got up early, biked into the woods and surfed himself silly in a hissing four-to-six left shories. Hid the five-eleven under a blackberry bush, biked back through the woods without seeing a soul.

The next day he went a bit earlier to avoid the street lights, which come on at six am for an hour before sun up, and got into the woods unlit, using backroads.

At one point, a car turned in a cul-de-sac and chased him.

He sprinted, made a few rapid turns, then lost them down an alley, schoolboy style.

What a rush.

The third day of lockdown was a darker night.

All alone in the woods, he started to think about wild boars. He’d seen them on this trail a few times, and a week earlier a friendly old madame, warned of a mother with litter nearby. When they charge you, their tusks can sever the femoral artery. Word is, if you get between momma and little uns…

One dark night he came home from the sea,
And put a hole in her body where no hole should be…

Day four was six-to-eight, offshore all day. Ruler edged north-west swell, thick lines to the horizon.

With empty peaks everywhere, he reckoned he saw more empties spit that day than ever in his born days. Carrion crows lined the beach, more so than usual. A truly magnificent bird, underrated because of abundance, they’re so intelligent they can recognise human and crow faces.

There’s no way they didn’t know something was amiss.

As my friend got out the water, one was eyeing him up.

“If he rolls an ankle in the ferocious shorey and can’t make it up the steep berm…” it almost certainly thought, calculating which eyeball to peck out first for breakfast.

“When the world falls apart, some things stay in place,
Levi Stubbs’ tears run down his face.”

The wind arrived yesterday, the swell finally relented.

Someone is flying a drone over my neighbourhood, I’m middle fingering it.

Rumours are that the lockdown will be extended to forty-five days and the army will be deployed to patrol the streets.

The surfing fine is going up to a grand, someone said.

Someone else said three.

As if that wasn’t bad enough, turns out the Venice canal dolphins were fake news.

The Totenkopf SS blew up twenty ships in the Adour and shot three people with machine guns as they beat their retreat. They also blew up the Pont Lajus bridge in Capbreton that goes from town to the beach for good measure.

But they never did find the cases of 1928 Lafite Rothschild hidden in the cellar at Cafe de la Gare.

Every cloud, etc.