New Zealand’s surfing communities have been asked to stay out of the water for at least the next four weeks to play their role in curbing the transmission of Coronavirus COVID-19.
While it’s a hard pill to swallow and certainly not a well-communicated component of the lockdown, leading surfing communities throughout the country have reconciled the reality of the situation with their need to catch waves and the answer has been emphatic.
In a statement released to Raglan Point Boardriders, chairman, Luke Hughes said the club actively stood behind the Government and Council and would not be supporting anyone who went surfing during the government mandated lockdown period.
“This is about the bigger picture of what we as a world are facing,” Luke explains. “This is about our communities and the lives at risk. People are dying every single day from COVID-19, and we are sitting here worried about catching a wave. We need to take a serious step outside of our bubble and look at the harsh reality that is destroying our world as we know it. We cannot risk this destroying our community, too.”
“This is about the bigger picture of what we as a world are facing. This is about our communities and the lives at risk. People are dying every single day from COVID-19, and we are sitting here worried about catching a wave.”
You only have to open your eyes to what is happening in places like Italy, Spain and France to realise the gravity of the virus getting a foothold in the community. The elderly, people like your grandparents, are dying frightened and alone. For the vulnerable there is no silver lining. In New Zealand we have one chance to nip this in the bud.
Sure, there are places without the crowd compression factor of Raglan’s points, Whangamata’s Bar, Piha and Sumner, but surfers, like sheep, have proven time and again they cannot resist missing out. Luke’s statement addresses this head on.
“By encouraging you to go out for a ‘solo surf’, we are in a sense saying that we do not care about the lives in our community,” he shares. “The ‘nahh, she’ll be right’ attitude simply will not work this time. We are fortunate to live in this place and we are lucky to call it home. We need to do everything in our power to protect Raglan and the people that live here. And that means making sacrifices for the greater good. That means, staying home. If one person goes surfing, one more will go, then one more, and more. The more crowded the lineup, the more dangerous the lineup. The more crowded the car park, in the case of COVID-19, the more dangerous the car park, and the more endangered we become as a community.”
Initially the limitation of surfing wasn’t well conveyed, with most surfers feeling like it would fit into the outdoor exercise rules for biking, running and walking. Most assumed it would be okay as long as we remained 2m from each other in the water and carpark.
This spurred a massive panic buy of surfboards over the weekend according to Geoff Hutchison, of Backdoor.
“It was sort of like Christmas shopping,” Geoff told media. “There was clearly a bit of panic buying of surfboards and surf equipment.”
One day before the lockdown chief police commissioner Mike Bush put the notion to rest in a statement released to media.
“You only go out in your vehicle if you need to go and get essential food supplies, essential medical supplies or medical treatment. Otherwise, please stay at home,” Mike Bush explains.
The official government information explains that COVID-19 Alert Level 4 means New Zealanders not working in essential services must stay at home and stop all interactions with others outside of your household.
Eradicating the disease is vital to protect people’s health and ensure our health system can cope and look after New Zealanders who become sick.
You may go for a walk or exercise and enjoy nature, but keep a 2 metre distance from people at all times.
Food will always be available – production will continue, distribution will continue, supermarkets will continue. You will always have access to food. Medicines will always be available. Healthcare for those that need it will be available. Your usual financial support, like benefits, will continue as normal.
Remember, whatever you do must be solitary. We’re asking that you only spend time with those who you are in self-isolation with, and keep your distance from all others at all times.
We need your support to protect New Zealand and eradicate COVID-19. Enforcement measures may be used to ensure everyone acts together, now.
“We cannot take this risk,” adds Luke. “And we cannot put more pressure on our healthcare workers and our medical system. We support them by staying home. We keep ourselves and our communities safe, by staying home. We all need to work together to protect every single person that lives in this town, and around our country. This is not a time for surfers to be selfish.”
Surfing New Zealand and other boardriders clubs throughout New Zealand have added their weight to the call for surfers to do the right thing in these uncharted waters.
“The government has now clarified, through police commissioner Mike Bush, that no-one should be driving anywhere from midnight Wednesday, March 25, other than for essential reasons like buying food and medicine,” its statement read.
“For the next four weeks, do not drive to the beach to surf or for any other reason,” added Surfing New Zealand. “Stay at home, and exercise at home or within short walking distance of home (whilst maintaining at least 2m physical distance from others).”
“The waves should simply stay empty,” Luke asserts. “Please, stay home. Take care of yourselves, your family, your health and wellbeing. Find different activities to occupy your time, and we will see you on the waves when this is all done.”
“We will only get through this if we all work together, with the right attitude.”
“This is not a time for surfers to be selfish.”