After one of the world's most intense lockdowns the South Africans are ready to go on Surfari.
On Wednesday evening South African president Cyril Ramaphosa announced that the country will be easing restrictions further. South Africa will be going to Lockdown Level 1 in a couple of days. The South African economy, however, has contracted by a staggering 51% in the second quarter. The travel and tourism industry has literally been destroyed with a 99% drop in sales. The food and beverage industry is on its knees with a 98% drop, and so many other jobs are lost forever.
Cyril, like the WSL, has been an easy target for citizens to blame and to insult. They have thrown all flavours of eggs at him as a result of the COVID fall-out. To be honest, he put on a pretty good show, until it was revealed that people serving in his government stole all the money destined for COVID recovery. They even stole the food parcels destined to help the poor in what has been called a series of Crimes against Humanity.
From that point on, It became a shit show that we were forced to watch, as he made money available for the poor, the unemployed, and the sick, and those in power stole it all. It was a pretty low show, and like the WSL, the people in charge seemed unable to do anything except talk about how they are going to do beautiful things in the future.
Well, that’s all history now as we move into Lockdown Level 1. What this means to South African surfers, in effect, is that we can travel again, and there are a fair few surfers who want to get out. There are specials for all surf destinations, and there are people who just want to go on a surf trip and get away from it all.
Over the last few months, we have experienced Hard Lockdown, which included no leaving the house, no work, no surfing, no booze, and no cigarettes. Difficult for all, and the hardest lockdown in the world. We spent months running around in our gardens, rationing our beers and watching empty waves, and through social media from countries that allowed surfing. We watched our surfers get arrested, we watched people phone the police to report others walking their dogs. We watched people getting arrested for jogging. We saw desperate situations, and we saw communities come together and rally up food supplies for those in need.
In a few days, we will be told which countries we can go to. There will be a few surfers that I know who will be heading on out to someplace where they can disappear for a few months, as we near the end of the winter season. The land camps in the Mentawais are still looking really good, and there are some excellent specials on the table. The whole of Indonesia in fact, from the Banyaks to mainland Sumatra to Enggano and more.
Bali is also a desirable offer, mainly due to the freedom that you can find there as opposed to the draconian rule we have been under for so long. To be able to hang out, in decent accommodation, and be left alone for a few days or weeks is proving to be very enticing for many.
And the final, unbelievable fact why so many South African surfers are looking to get out of here is quite simply the crowds. What an incredible scene and situation the crowds have been for the surfers of our nation (bad), as well as for the industry (good). Once the no surfing ban was lifted or turned a blind eye to, ‘everybody surfs’ became the new national mantra.
We can attribute the crowds to the lack of other sports facilities available. There has been no golf, no gym facilities, no pools, no school sports and no triathlons, which are extremely popular in South Africa. There have been no marathons and half marathons, no Park Runs. With little to do, everyone either returned to surfing or took it up again.
Many people in South Africa and in the world were laid off. Many of these people headed to the beach with their savings, unsure of their next step. They just hung out and surfed. Crowded beaches became inundated, quiet surf spots and villages were festering.
With borders opening up, however, travel inquiries have been brisk, and those with tickets on hold from the pre-COVID onset are making plans to get going. South Africa is still considered a high-risk area, so we are awaiting the list of countries that are prepared to take us. On top of this, every South African leaving the country needs a negative COVID test no older than 72 hours old. Should anyone present in a country for a holiday and subsequently test positive, then your holiday in Mauritius could turn into a slightly less luxurious 14 days quarantine.
Either way, the travel industry has just received a life-line. The surf destinations are smiling and ready to embrace the South Africans. The surf camps and hotels are hoping and praying that they get a little bit of the spend, of the guests preparing to hit some foreign waves.
We might not be as lucky or as wealthy as Kelly Slater and Raspberry Wasilewski, but pretty soon we can also find our own way back to G-Land.