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Lockdown 2021: Surfing Illegal In New Zealand … Again

New Zealand records its first Delta variant cases and is plunged back into lockdown mode at the highest level, which makes surfing illegal.

Manu Bay, the most crowded wave in New Zealand, empty during the last lockdown as surfers played their part in the recovery. This week Manu Bay was scheduled to play host to the Raglan Surf Academy’s inter-schools competition.
Photo: Derek Searancke

Level 4 is a frustrating situation to find ourselves in once again, but unlike our first lockdown back in March 2020, the rules around surfing are very clear this time. Here’s the exact wording from

Exercise and recreation

• You can go for a walk, run or bike ride in your local area. Exercise is good for your mental health. 
• If you do, it must be on your own, or with your household bubble.
• Keep a 2 metre distance. 
Do not do activities that may require search and rescue services. For example, do not go swimming, surfing, boating, hunting or tramping
• If you are unwell, do NOT go outside. 

The troubling part about this ruling is that for most surfers going for a surf is far less dangerous than riding a bike. Most surfers will never required the services of search and rescue throughout their entire surfing lives. And for most surfers the mental health affects of not surfing for more than three days will be significantly detrimental.

The real issue for surfers is that lockdowns tend to inspire every Tom, Dick and Harriet to want to give surfing a shot. Surfing is, after all, the antithesis of a lockdown. It is complete freedom in one of its purest forms. When humans are restricted they immediately leap to dreams of freedom and surfing rockets to the top of that list.

Look at the March 2020 lockdown – the boom in surfing saw surf stores wiped out of their hardware, wetsuit stocks plummeted, blank supplies dwindled. The lineups at Level 3 were filled to breaking point and throughout the country. Most of the new faces were newcomers – people learning to surf at waves that were far too easy to access. The result was mayhem – a ding repair shop’s windfall.

This group is the target of the Government’s messaging, but the rest of us get caught in the crossfire. There is no way to draw a line between those who can and can’t so the blanket ban is the only real workable option.

That doesn’t mean it will be a painful seven days in Auckland and Coromandel and three days elsewhere, but at least if nobody’s surfing then we’re all in the same boat. Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern talks about a team of five million working together to stop the spread and we’ve done it before. For the estimated one million who associate with surfing in New Zealand, surely we can play our part. Delta will put us to the test once again and this time it’s a more serious outcome if we get it wrong.

According to the Ministry of Health, the SARS-CoV-2 virus that causes Covid-19 has undergone genetic mutations over time as it adapts to humans, leading to the development of new variants of the virus. Of these new variants, Delta is swiftly becoming the dominant variant globally.

  • Delta can cause people to develop more serious Covid-19 illness than other variants of the virus
  • People with a Delta infection are at higher risk of needing hospitalisation
  • The chance of infecting others is very high because Delta is so transmissible. It is estimated that on average, one person infected with Delta may infect five or six other people. This is how Delta outbreaks in places overseas have grown so rapidly.
  • People with Delta infections seem to carry much more virus (have a higher viral load) and for a longer period of time than those infected with the original virus or other variants.
  • The time from exposure to the virus until first symptoms is shorter for the Delta variant. Some people may have no symptoms (asymptomatic) when infectious.

With four more cases revealed this morning and a wide contact tracing net to haul in it is clear that this outbreak is going to worse before it gets better. Missing a few days of surfing to play our role might not be the end of the world for us. Especially when you consider the global situation right now:

This past Monday, August 16, 2021, there were 530,972 new cases. That same day 7760 people died from Covid-19. As of today there have been 209,285,952 cases globally and 4,392,940 deaths from Covid-19. Heavy. And the science shows its way more deadly than any flu – 16 times as deadly for those in their 80s and far more deadly to teens (20 times) and children (10 times).

Surfing may be illegal once again in New Zealand but there is a bigger picture to consider here. Stay safe, you know the rest …

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