UPDATED Coronavirus: Is It Safe to Surf? Should You?

Jason Lock

by on

Updated 211d ago

Update: Monday March 23 2020: The UK government has banned all non-essential travel for the next three weeks. Non-essential travel has been banned but you're allowed up to exercise once a day. Now, whether driving to the beach to surf/get in the sea counts towards any of that is unclear. In black and white terms, driving to the beach (we'd imagine) is classified as non-essential travel. If you can walk there, and get in with less than two people - that seems the safest way forward. Visit the government's website to take a look at what's banned under lockdown, HERE.

Original article: “There is a big swell coming this weekend,” says Michel Bourez. “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.”

It's an easy one really, if you're going to the beach make sure you surf alone. No chit chatting in the car park, stay six feet apart, don't hang around in groups and the rest of the advice is in place for good reason. The whole world is slowly learning about coronavirus but this thing is spreading quicker than we can catch up.

However, there's some things we do know specifically about how it impacts water quality and surfing – largely thanks to Katie Day, a staff scientist for Surf Rider, who attended a coronavirus research update webinar hosted by the Water Research Foundation a few days ago.

She said: “The virus has been shown to remain viable and infectious, at least temporarily, in natural freshwater environments including lakes and streams. While dilution is suspected to keep the risk low, high concentrations of the viable COVID-19 virus could put freshwater recreation users at risk.”

But for salt water, we're still a bit in the dark here. “There was no information shared on the ability of the COVID-19 virus to remain viable in saltwater, so it’s unclear if swimming at saltwater beaches elevates the risk of contracting COVID-19,” she said. “However, communal spread is a serious issue so spending time at popular beaches, if in close contact to other beachgoers, will increase your risk.”

And, are people more likely to contract the disease if exposed to unclean water? “At this point, the research community does not know if people can contract the COVID-19 virus from exposure to faeces in recreational waters but the overall consensus is that it might be possible. The RNA (ribonucleic acid) of the virus was found in stool samples of infected patients, but we do not know if the virus remains infectious after passing through the human digestive system. 

Just...watch movies instead, maybe. Keep an eye on the forecast for when this is all over.

“Due to the current uncertainty, areas affected by sewage spills, leaks or overflows, or have high numbers of septic tanks, cesspools or homeless populations, could have increased risk for potential transmission of the virus in affected waterways. “

Katie ended her piece with a list of things to do to stay safe: “The CDC keeps an  to stay safe. Researchers stressed the fact that community mitigation is key and everyone has a role to play to protect themselves and others. Some key steps include;

Wash your hands for at least 20 seconds frequently and thoroughly.

If soap and water are not available, use at least 60% alcohol-based hand sanitiser.

Do not touch your face (especially eyes, nose or mouth) with unwashed hands.

Clean frequently touched surfaces often with home cleaning products and then follow with disinfectants that contain either adequate concentrations of bleach or are minimum 70% alcohol-based. Note that you can easily make your own disinfectant for surface cleaning by mixing 4 tsp bleach per 1 quart of water. 

Stay home if you are sick.

Practice social distancing and avoid large gatherings (greater than 10 people, but this recommendation is changing rapidly as state and cities close down restaurants, bars and theatres to mitigate community exposure).

See HERE for an updated list of what to do. We'll update this piece once more information is released.

Cover shot uploaded to MSW by Jay Dog