French surfers plan rebel paddle out while the Portuguese are back in the brine.
“We could surf from Monday and everyone can be back in the water with certain restrictions,” Frederico Morais told Tracks. “I’m so stoked, I can start training, and start testing new boards. It’s been getting harder and harder to stay locked down and watch empty waves here, plus all the waves pumping in Oz and Hawaii.”
Surfing has been banned in Portugal since March 18 when Portugal was one of the first European countries to invoke a lockdown, despite only having two deaths at that stage. They have had significantly less infection and deaths than their neighbours and have been cited as a country with one of the most effective responses to Covid-19. Bodysurfing is still banned, however, possibly as a means to stop general swimming, rather than an assault on body bashing.
However, in France, surfers have had no such luck. The French Prime Minister Edouard Philippe announced that all French beaches will remain shut until June 2nd, despite the national lockdown ending on May 11.
France has been under severe current quarantine measures for over seven weeks. While an hour of exercise has been allowed, surfing wasn’t permitted. And while there have been some epic conditions in that time, the famous beachbreaks have remained empty, as the video from the Hossegor Tourist Board Shows. (wait for the end and then go mindsurfing)
“As they sheltered behind their boards from all the sand and debris flying in their faces, the cops had machine guns pointed at them and instructed ‘Ne bougez pas!’ (Freeze!) over the heli’s speakers,” reported Paul Evans. “The bird then landed and made the arrests.”
However, most surfers were hoping that a relaxation of the national lockdown rules would mean a return to the water. The Prime Minister’s announcement of the extended beach closures has, therefore, come as a shock. Many are, understandably, angry.
The French Surfing Federation (FFS) has taken up its concerns to the government. “We’re seeking a transition period between 11th May and 2nd June to give people access to the sea,” said FFS secretary Jean-Luc Arrassus, “for individual exercise, on the understanding health guidelines and physical distancing are respected.”
Elsewhere a petition to the regional governments of France’s west coast, requesting that individual sports in the ocean should be permitted has gathered some 17,000 signatures. The federal government, however, has stayed staunch. There have also been various groups urging surfers to paddle out in protest next Monday the 11th, while maintaining physical distancing, anyway.
Facebook groups like Tous A L’eau A Partir du 11 (To The Water From the 11th) are urging folk to disobey the law and paddle out when lockdown ends. Hashtags like #RendezNousNosPlages (give us back our beaches) are being used by mayors and local authorities in open defiance of the central government.
We’ll keep you posted on how they get on, but for French surfers, it looks like May might be the longest month of their lives. If you are lucky enough to be able to surf, don’t take it for granted.
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