To surf, or not to surf – is that the question?
A Line In The Sand
by Dilan Carestia.
“The one thing that doesn’t abide by majority rule is a person’s conscience.”
– Atticus Finch, To Kill A Mockingbird
Twenty twenty has been somewhat Biblical. January was fire, February floods. March we ran out of toilet paper, and April locked us in. Well, most of us in. Well, most of the time, depending on… You see, it’s just not that simple.
I’ll admit – I am super nerd for all things geography and science, and despite all I knew about pandemics from the Black Death until now, even I was quick to at first dismiss this one as “just another flu”. Hindsight, in all her glory, is a bitch.
Though as infections spread across the globe, politicians and celebrities alike were telling us to #StayHome. Many did.
Many others were confused by the confusing multitude of messages updated daily.
Then others – thousands of them – took to the sand on Sydney’s beaches to set up camp in the early Autumn sunshine, some to work on their tan to party in clubs and bars through that same weekend.
And so, rightfully pissed at the sunbaking mobs, almost overnight, an Iron Curtain fell from Bondi to Botany Bay, and every little pocket of sand in between.
Guards patrolled the new barricades, like old images of the Berlin Wall, watching for anyone who looked like they may be a little too tempted by the endless waves that continued for weeks. The surfers turned, and went home. The beaches empties. The waves continued, unridden.
Human nature is, well, shit at times. Tell someone they can not do something, and they do it. Tell the people to stay home, and they go to the beach. Tell them they can not use the beach, so they all go out to walk each day and do sit ups in the park. And here, my friends, is where the plot thickens.
Large crowds closed Sydney city beaches, while other beaches remain open. Surfers from the likes of Narrabeen in the north and Cronulla in the south plead for people to not flock to their beaches where they can still take to the waves. Every patch of cliff face that allows for it has kids on holidays attempting to surf over barnacles.
Government politicians on TV each day say it is fine – indeed encouraged – to go out to exercise, if social distancing is maintained.
People unable to use the water crowd the parks and walkways. More people using the paths cause the paths to be shut, such as the infamous Coastal Walk. Helicopters fly overhead, police and council rangers patrol the cliffs. It quickly seems that a bandaid on one part of the problem is just moving people into other bottlenecks.
For many weeks now, Sydney folk have been asking “can I surf?”
That’s a valid question, but so is – “should I surf?”.
For me, it’s been a moral dilemma.
I want to surf, sure.
I still scramble down cliffs to swim alone each morning or evening.
I was already kept at work in a full school because the government deemed me an “essential service”. However, the more people I come into contact with, be it in classroom or grocery store or beach, then the less able I am to see my sister because of her health conditions.
I’d like to think that me making sacrifices for people like her is what will prevent things going to shit like they have for my relatives in Italy.
So is bodyboarding or any activity in the ocean putting you at risk of the Rona?
Probably, mathematically, yes, in some way, though no more that the adventure to the aisles to find pasta and toilet paper. Yes, looking for TP in 2020 is more likely to kill you than a trip to the beach.
Unless you’re being shot at by a cop as you exit the surf in Costa Rica (I’ll let you Google that one).
However, just like shopping, and all good Instagram model quotes – it’s not just about the destination, it’s about the journey. If you can get to the beach with minimal travel, minimal crew, and minimal loitering, then you are likely to have very little impact on the spread of this virus. If you need to pack the car, pick up a mate, and drive to a beach not walking distance from your home, and… well, you get it.
I pen this page now as the sun sets on the first day of the next chapter in this experiment – opening up the Sydney beach of Maroubra to exercise, including surfing.
It’s difficult to say how it went – you see, Bondi and surrounding beaches remain closed, so the influx of people to this beach was compounded.
There were more people on floatation vessels with L-plates than I had seen in a while, and I left the beach happier to not be hurt from a stray board than a virus.
The week ahead is anyone’s guess, just like the weeks past.
Can we get back to bodyboarding?
Around Australia, a lot of us, yes.
Is it right to do so now?
I wish I had an answer for that.
In a democratic society based upon freedoms, any increase in freedom brings the requirements in responsibilities.
Right now, if we all want more freedoms, we need to make sure we let our own choices set a good example.
Otherwise – well, everyone remembers those days where the whole class was kept back by just a few muppets acting up.