"The only thing keeping this guy safe was social distancing."
Jeffreys Bay, South Africa: It was tough enough for the hardened surfers to stand down during an epic swell at Supers on Friday, March 27, but it was made intolerable by the fact that an American surfer paddled out, twice, and surfed it by himself.
So when the lockdown hit on Friday, many local surfers, some with line-of-sight of Supers were shocked, dismayed and then eventually outraged that this guy decided that he was special enough to surf it, while the rest of the country was in lockdown.
When they discovered that he was also a blow-in, things didn’t improve much.
The surfers in J-Bay and surrounds are a proud and robust bunch and are recognized for their solidarity and standing tall when the shit hits the fan.
At the moment the shit is heading for that fan in South Africa and it’s coming in fast. COVID-19 has just hit the St Francis Bay community, home of Bruce’s Beauties thirty minutes drive from J-Bay, and local surfers everywhere are doing what they can to help by working together.
One of these things is obeying the law.
It’s a national state of disaster, and beach access as well as surfing is outlawed. Breaking the law could see fines or jail time. Going to jail in South Africa right now would be a grim proceeding. You’d sit until after the lockdown, timeline indefinite, and you’d probably emerge with a funny walk.
When word filtered out about the American doctor surfing Supers the local surfer community Whatsapps were flaring.
The one phrase echoed over and over: “What makes him so fucking special?”
The only thing keeping this guy safe was social distancing.
We tracked him down.
His name is Joseph Hardeman, thirty five years old, from San Francisco California.
BeachGrit: You surfed at Supers during the lockdown. How long did you surf for?
JH: When I surfed the day before the lockdown, I had spoken to some of the brus, and they had talked about cracking it at first light. So I paddled out in the dark and surfed for a bit, but it had morning sickness, so I figured that’s why no one joined me. I had breakfast, and the waves were so pretty, and I went out again. I didn’t know surfing was not allowed yet. My girlfriend came down on the beach, and when I came in my host family told me that the town was Whatsapping them in a rage.
But you must have known about the surfing lockdown? Every man woman and child in JBay knew about it. It was being blared out from every screen and every piece of printed paper.
We had just got to J-Bay, weren’t settled and didn’t have wifi.
What about your hosts (a very sweet surfing family from JBay) getting the abuse? The fact that you paddled out a second time is most likely what pissed everybody off.
You’re right. I am ashamed and sorry. There was no way that I thought I was putting that family in any sort of risk. I thought one thing, then I learned, and now I feel completely different. It sucks being a visitor and having the town mad at you. I don’t think highly of myself; I just love surfing. Most would probably say that I’m an idiot.
We all love surfing.
I wish I could take it all back. I hate that I provoked such anger. My girlfriend hated the fact that she was the ‘chick’ on the beach and that she dates an idiot. I got my ass handed to me through WhatsApp and through the community.
Are you still going to go with the thread that you didn’t know about the lockdown?
I knew about it; I just didn’t think it included surfing. I’m committed to social distancing. I do appreciate the opportunity to tell my story, even though it sounds bad. Being out of the loop is hard to know what the hell is going on. Being a visitor is a much different experience than being in communication with the crew. I can totally understand how me paddling out looks entitled and self-centred, disregarding the community stance. The day before the lockdown there were so many rumours, it was pretty confusing. Now not so much. The whole situation is shocking. We had no idea what to expect. It would be nice if we could have a little understanding that we just arrived in JBay, knew no one, and had no wifi.
I’m sure the locals will hear you out and accept your apology. You’re stuck here now, and we’re all in this thing together. If shit goes down, you might need to volunteer your medical expertise.
I’m also going to volunteer to do some work in the prepping for COVID-19. Maybe I have some skills the community could use.
By the way, what stance, and what board were you riding?
I’m a regular foot, and I was riding a 6’3″, SOS Scarlet Letter, swallow-tail.
What else do you get up to, when you’re not pissing off locals?
Well, I have a Professional big-wave career.
Really? Do tell.
I tied second place with Tazzy (Anthony Tashnick) and Nick Lamb at the recent Nelscott Reef event (won by Jojo Roper). I am also in the running for a Mavericks Surf Award for Biggest Wave. I hope this hasn’t messed up my aspirations to surf some big waves in South Africa, and I hope my mom won’t get too bummed out by this article. Thanks again for listening. I’m totally jealous of this community here and ability they have to stick together.