Here's the thing; surfing has never been illegal or banned during the pandemic in England, if you could get to the beach, safely, it's always been ok to jump in. However, non-essential travel wasn't allowed, leaving many landlocked surfers feeling stranged. A few hours ago, the UK's Prime Minister Boris Johnson laid out the first stages to ease lockdown across the nation, and as with everything going on with the COVID-19 situation, it's left a lot of wriggle room for confusion – but this is how we see the fresh guidance for surfing.
The short answer is; yes, it seems you can surf. But only for England, looks like Wales, Scotland and NI will have to wait a little bit longer. During Sunday's daily update, the PM announced that from Wednesday, certain things will be permitted, as part of a three phase plan to help ease current restrictions. Specifically, he said people could leave the house for exercise as much as they like and added: “You can sit in the sun in your local park, you can drive to other destinations, you can even play sports but only with members of your own household.”
That's certainly a U-turn on the government's ban on non-essential travel. After all, if sunbathing and going to your local park is ok, then socially distancing in the ocean is likely to be just fine.
But there's a bigger question here, isn't there? While people across the internet are quick to herald the return to surfing in the UK, there's an important part of Boris' message that they are missing. The PM explicitly mentioned the government will not hesitate to revert the rules if lockdown guidance is flouted - which means if the beaches are swarmed, we're going to end up back at square one. Now's the time to show that our humble little community are listening and adhering to the social contract.
There's no instructions on how far you can drive for activities, and we're sure this will be clarified in the next few days. But for now, and if the language remains on Wednesday, we'd say – keep it local. For your safety (you don't want a fine) and the safety of others (potentially spreading this thing from a high-density population area). But that decision is ultimately yours to make.
Then, of course, will surf schools reopen? Boris did say if you cannot work from home, you should go back to work. So you can't blame those businesses for wanting to reopen, given the current advice.
Oh, it is all smoke and mirrors, is it not? The ambiguity from the government, the shifting of a 'window-peeping, keep an eye on your neighbours level of police state?' To 'drive where you want for exercise'. Suitably skewed and unclear.
However, if we, as a community, are sensible about this, then there's little reason we can't get back to doing the thing we love most. In that respect, MSW has laid out some guidelines to help people surf responsibly. The core of the mantra is simple; keep it moving; surf local, surf alone, keep your distance, no loitering in the car park, go home -- or face ruining it for everyone. We laid out a program to surf responsibly a few weeks ago, here are those points again:
The last thing low R rate areas need as an influx from high-density areas. For those in the cities and not on the coast, wait for more guidance from Wednesday – and we'll update this article with the latest and best info.
Something most of us want to do anyway, if you're going to go, find your own corner and make sure it's empty or a few people in. Sitting shoulder to shoulder at a busy beach is a no go and defeats the spirit of what our humble community is trying to achieve. Go early, if you need, but go alone.
Get In, Surf, Get Out
Don't high five your buds, don't hang around talking. Perhaps think about changing before you head out so you're not hanging around. Walking however far in a wetty isn't the most enticing of options, but it's sure better than loitering around a car park. Get out, go straight home.
Be Prepared to Surf Sub Par Waves
Look, the northern hemi at this time of year are probably missing 2-3ft summer days – but be prepared to walk to the beach and surf something sub par. After all, it may be the only way to keep the fire alive.
Don't Bunch Up
This should be the rule no matter what but is wort repeating. Don't snake each other, just stay in position, surf where you are. There's no point hassling or having some clueless surfer think they can surf around you. It's not worth it. If it happens to you, just paddle away. Stay in your own head.
Know Your Limits
Now is not the time to push personal boundaries. If in doubt, don’t go out. If you can’t surf, now’s not the time to learn.