"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.
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.
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!”
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.
Early spring, Hossegor. March 15, 2020.
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!”
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.
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.
Revealed: “Greedy, misanthropic, grossly overweight” plus-sized sharks consuming up to 70% of Queensland fishermen’s daily catch!
These Coronavirus days are very anxiety-inducing. Very strange yet odd but there has been much joy, inspiration, folded into the general terror. People looking out for other people. People helping other people. People caring about other people.
Animals getting in on the general benevolence too.
Therapy dogs allowing themselves to be petted for comfort. Therapy tigers performing tricks for Russian oligarch children and putting smiles on their faces.
It is very close to an earthly paradise minus Chinese-made diseases and large sharks eating Australia’s Queenslander fishermen’s entire daily catch, minus 30%.
An unbelievable amount of rudeness in these days already fraught times.
According to Michael Thompson, who represents many fishermen, “As every single commercial fisherman that works out there — that’s line fishermen — will tell you, from the border of Queensland right to the tip of Queensland, there’s massive shark problems on the entire coastline. We’ve still got a great fishery, we can still go and catch or hook multiple fish — the fish are there. We just cannot bring them to the boat because the sharks are taking them. We have up to 30 following us at any one time and they’re getting bigger to what they were in previous years — eight to nine-foot sharks.
Not satisfied with fish intended for sale, the greedy, misanthropic sharks are also targeting men and women out on the high seas for a little bit of fun. Charter boat operator Luke Truant says a significant amount of fish are getting “sharked.”
“We might lose 58 out of 60 fish,” he said and is calling for the government to reconsider laws preventing fishers from taking sharks more than 1.5 metres long.
“I want the legislation to change so we can harvest sharks in proportion to fish.”
A fine idea?
Associate Professor of Environmental Management at Bond University, Dr Daryl McPhee, says, “No.”
“The issue with market acceptance of large sharks is just the taste and texture. They certainly don’t rank as something that is particularly tasty.”
And how entirely unthoughtful.
First sharks eat all of our fish and then they have the audacity to taste bad, with bad texture themselves.
Heartbreaking: Canada and Australia announce its surfers will not participate in 2020 Tokyo Olympics as they are “busy protecting public health!”
And now, like that, surfing’s dream Olympic debut is hanging by the tiniest of threads. Dangling but almost fully cut for Canada and Australia announced, just yesterday, that they would not be sending athletes, including surfers, to Tokyo if the games continue to be slated for this year.
According to the Canadian Olympic Committee, “While we recognize the inherent complexities around a postponement, nothing is more important than the health and safety of our athletes and the world community. This is not solely about athlete health — it is about public health.”
The Australian Olympic Committee, taking a similar tack, declared, “Our athletes now need to prioritise their own health and of those around them, and to be able to return to the families. It’s clear the Games can’t be held in July. Our athletes have been magnificent in their positive attitude to training and preparing, but the stress and uncertainty has been extremely challenging for them. The athletes desperately want to go to the games…but they also take onboard their own personal health. We need to give our athletes that certainty and that’s what we’ve done.”
Oh we should applaud all these athletes, especially surfers, for putting the greater good ahead of selfish desires but how sad is Julian Wilson this morning? Owen Wright? Steph Gilmore, Sally Fitz, Bede Durbidge?
Let’s be honest, Australia’s surf team is not exactly “young” and pushing the Olympics even one year out may have disastrous effects on the proud nation’s hope for gold or, continuing on with our honesty, any medal at all.