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?

Great.

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.

 


"One for me... and one for me."

Revealed: “Greedy, misanthropic, grossly overweight” plus-sized sharks consuming up to 70% of Queensland fishermen’s daily catch!

"Gimme, gimme."

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.

Not inspirational.

Extremely disturbing.


Do you remember hugging?

Heartbreaking: Canada and Australia announce its surfers will not participate in 2020 Tokyo Olympics as they are “busy protecting public health!”

Altruists.

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.

Extremely sad.

Very sad.

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.

Heartbreak but heartbreak for the greater good.

Altruists.

Not disciples of that horrible Ayn Rand.


Cops don't mess around in Peru.

Watch: Surfer surrounded, arrested, by masked police as military locks down Peru!

What will the supreme lesson of the Coronavirus shutdown be for the world? That your government has startling and hitherto unused powers? 

In this short video, author unknown, we got it via @portugalsurfrental who got it from a WhatsApp group, a surfer is surrounded and arrested by masked police in Punta Hermosa, a beach resort forty or so clicks south of the country’s capital, Lima. 

Peru is currently under a military-enforced lockdown to stop the spread of China’s best virus so far, eclipsing even their 2002 hit SARS. There’s a curfew between eight pm and five am for the next two weeks, soldiers and cops with guns patrol the streets, borders are closed, the military guards the airport.

No surfing, either.

In the clip, the cops behave pretty politely for this part of the world, a country where it ain’t unknown for police to carry out illegal killings, and where death squad the Grupo Colina and revolutionary communists the Shining Path were shooting and bombing into the nineties.

The surfer is told he has to be detained for the good of the community of Punta Hermosa.

“Let’s go! Let’s go!’ they tell him.

The surfer, scared, protests, says he lives nearby and that maybe it might be a little easier for everyone if they let him go.

“I can go home!” he says.

“Let’s go! Let’s go!” they respond. “You must go to the police station.”

The clip wraps with the cops saying they’re going to wait for a second surfer in the lineup.

(Here’s a longer version. I trimmed ours down for IG attention spans.)

https://www.instagram.com/p/B-DXekBnLvg/


Perspective: “Surfers didn’t just survive the Great Depression, we aced it! Happier, healthier!”

A well-timed message from surfing’s great historian Matt Warshaw…

Every cloud is lined with silver, or so the saying goes.

In the case of a deadly-to-the-aged virus that was birthed in the filth and horror of China’s infamous multi-species wet-markets, it has fallen to surfing’s great historian, Matt Warshaw, to reveal a layer that shimmers.

Matt needs little introduction, of course, former editor of Surfer, keeper of surfing’s flame, a man whom I’ve always pictured as a lone cowboy entering a village on a horse, beholden to no one.

In his Sunday mail-out to Encyclopedia of Surfing subscribers, and on the eve of an economic apocalypse, Warshaw points out the enviable position of surfers when it comes to thriving in catastrophe.

There is value in reminding ourselves that the sport has already made it through hard times. On the disease side, surfing, along with the native population at large, was utterly decimated in the century following Captain Cook’s arrival in Hawaii.

From the 1900 nadir of that catastrophic event, however, we get Duke Kahanamoku and George Freeth and surfing’s rebirth. (While it messes up my point, I’m obligated to point out that Freeth died in the coming flu pandemic.)

As far as squaring up to economic hardship, surfers didn’t merely survive the Great Depression, we aced it. We slept on the beach, pulled entire meals from the ocean, went hard DIY on equipment, and if it wasn’t exactly a 12-year San Onofre clambake, surfers in general got through the Depression happier and healthier then the population at large.

Photographer Doc Ball put it this way: “We bought very little. We made our own boards and trunks; I even made my own camera tripod. It was good for you. After all that, you really knew how to get there from here. Of course, we had a little trouble getting gasoline. But then it was seven cents a gallon. Imagine that! We had surfing. As long as there’s waves—you didn’t have to pay for those. All we had to do was buy gas to get there.”

If you sign up to the EOS, you can dive even further into the surfers-thriving-during-the-Great-Depression thing. 

Here’s the smallest taste,

The Depression did good things for surfing in America. Being poor on the beach in Southern California was a lot better than being poor in the Nebraska plains or on a New York street corner—or anywhere else in the country, for that matter. Surfers were already familiar with living on the cheap: they made their own trunks and surfboards, pulled lobsters and abalone from the sea, gathered wood for their own fires, and could build an evening’s entertainment around a ukulele, a guitar, and a passed-around bottle of jug wine. Riding waves didn’t make up for being jobless or underemployed, but it was a nice way to pass the time if you were. With a long curl-beating ride to the beach, surfers could still find grace moments, just as they had during an era of prosperity.

In California, and to a lesser degree Hawaii, beaches and lineups during the Depression were commanded by down-at-heels journeymen like Tom Blake, who sold his swimming medals and cups to pay for meals. Another was the hulking surfer-paddleboarder Gene “Tarzan” Smith, who during the 1930s lived on and off in a cave he excavated in a sandstone cliff near Corona del Mar. On weekend nights, Smith, a binge drinker and predatory brawler, would roll his only suit and a pair of old dress shoes into a piece of oilskin, paddle across Newport Harbor to the enormous Rendezvous Ballroom, change next to a nearby boathouse, dance and drink and bust a few heads, then roll the suit back up and make the return journey across the harbor to his cave. Smith would became famous among surfers for his otherworldly paddling stamina. In 1940 he paddled from Oahu to Kauai, a seventy-mile, thirty-hour journey, on a board outfitted with a compass, flashlight holder, hunting knife, and pneumatic pillow. Over the last few miles, Smith hallucinated that he was stroking down Hollywood Boulevard. Sixty-five years passed before another paddler made the crossing.

As I said, give Warshaw a few bucks and sign up to the EOS, although as he told readers last week, if suffering and privation is your lot, he’s happy to carry anyone for free until a vaccine comes along.