Nick Carroll: How Surfers Around the World Are Doing Amid COVID-19

19 Mar 2020 9 Share

Nick Carroll

Senior Writer

Jake Mackenzie getting an uncrowded pit at Uluwatu this week

Jake Mackenzie getting an uncrowded pit at Uluwatu this week

COASTALWATCH | NICK CARROLL

What’s it like right now being a surfer in Spain, Bali, The Ments?

Slowly but surely, the COVID thing is driving us into our own little bubbles — safe spaces, and maybe not-so-safe ones. We’re all dealing with it in our own ways. Right now, here in Australia, we have it easy compared with some places in the surfing world. We asked a few of our friends in other places just how they’re doing in the hopefully short-lived time of the Plague.

Jake Mackenzie (Uluwatu, Bali)

“Ulus weirdly enough has been pumping last couple days … relatively empty lineups and fun 2-4’ clean offshore waves.

“Bali is getting shut down this Friday to incoming tourists. So the reality is kicking in hard....

Lots of people fleeing. Reports at the airport is deep lines waiting on a couple operators still operating, Singapore Air ... Emirates … Cruise ship employees are coming back and there’s hotels with zero occupancy. We are preparing for a massive hit in my business (all surf tourist related) and hopefully we can stay afloat. I’ve got Vanessa and my three kids here and we are hunkering down and planning for a long lean time ahead ... I went shopping yesterday and the day before and there was still full shelves, so I have stocked up on all the necessary items. Also filled up nine jerry cans of diesel for the generator and truck just to be safe ...

“We still don’t really know what the government will do. Also not sure what will happen with ocean access ... just for today it’s open and we are surfing ... local expat crew mainly ... lots of people seem on edge ... local Balinese and Indonesians don't seem so phased at this point, but I don’t feel they realise the seriousness of what’s happening.

“It’s gunna get bad for a while ... that’s my feeling and opinion …Haven't had any personal experience with the virus yet here in Bali ... been hearing about it not surviving as well in the heat.”

Kepa Acero (Basque Country, Spain)

“I’m locked at home and things are pretty heavy. I never expected things were going to be like this. At least in my hometown, there’s no one in the streets. If they catch you running, walking around, you have to justify what you’re doing. And, of course, you can’t go surfing. There’s fines of 600 euros to 30,000 euros and they can put you in jail. I’m going crazy at home! But I guess it’s something everybody has to do right now. The sooner we stop this, the sooner we’ll go back to – well, maybe not normal, but back to work.”

Nic Von Rupp (Portugal)

“It’s advised by the government but not obligatory. But I guess everyone here in Portugal is taking their own actions. I started to feel a bit sick so decided to do what I thought was best. Trying to learn from the mistakes of others. Trying to take this as serious as I can. People are surfing, but the beaches are forbidden at the moment. I’m sure people will be getting in at some point, no one knows if there’s a punishment for surfing. I haven’t tried to in the past five days. Think we will be in quarantine for at least a month, maybe even until June. It took China three months and it’s going to take less civilized places — well, where people are more reckless, it’ll take longer. I don’t have any travel plans for the next couple of months, that’s for sure.”

Roberto D’Amico (Italy)

“I’ve been quarantined for one week already. There are no waves at the moment but, even if there were waves, I’m not allowed to get out of my house. And even if there were, the lineup would be like the roads … empty. We think this will be in place until April 3. Because most of the people have to get in the car and look for the right spot and once you park, we are all in one place pretty much and this is not possible at the moment. I live in front of the sea; I want to get more information in case of waves so I can go if I need to.

“We are making online appointments, doing things that we never have time for being positive and respecting the rules. I know this will help mother nature to be reborn as well, world was going too fast in my eyes and this is just a brutal stop. Just don’t start to be lazy in isolation. Keep your body active and that will help your mind. Stay away but close to the ones you care about and respect the rules.”

Rob Kelly (New Jersey-based, currently in Puerto Rico)

“I’m heading home tonight but from talking to everyone at home, it sounds like things are getting a little crazy.

“Because New York and Philadelphia are on lockdown and schools are closed, a lot of people are leaving the city and coming to the beach towns in New Jersey. Our towns here are very seasonal and not yet ready for the influx of visitors we normally get in the summer months so it is starting to cause some issues.”

Not an hour later, Rob hits us back with this: “Coincidentally, just got kicked off the beach in Puerto Rico. No surfing for two weeks is what the police officer said.”

Jody Perry (Mentawai Islands, Indonesia)

“Basically everyone’s postponing trips. Indonesia government like others are putting bans on foreigners entering.

“It’s all happening so fast, new changes, hard to say. But very difficult to do. I dont think so. Expats living here looking at uncrowded waves and opportunities. Boat owners talking about loading up with fuel, supplies, family, and just sit out at uncrowded surfbreaks and anchorages till it goes back to normal.”

We suggest to Jody that once the worst passes, people will want to do surf trips more than ever. “Yeah. Seen similar a few times before. Surfers hear of guys surfing Uluwatu  or Grajagan alone, great deals, uncrowded waves. Charge back in droves and the tail end of the season ends up extending and crowded. Once travel advisories and threats are lifted, business as usual pretty quick. How long away that is though?”

Evan Slater (Southern California)

“For Southern California surfers, it feels much like the eerie vibe post 911. The land is just a weird place to be right now. Orange County Health Department just declared a county-wide home-quarantine order (effectively shutting down all businesses). Empty shelves at the grocery stores, empty streets, most of the state’s employed wearing pajamas and working  ‘remotely'.

“But in the ocean, it remains the same. Crowds fluctuate this time of year and can be unpredictable. I surfed Ponto this morning from 8:30 – 10 just after a good rain squall, by myself for 45 minutes, then the two other guys staggered out. It just turned offshore after south winds all night with a rising long-period south and dropping tide. Wasn’t epic, but would have been 15-20 guys out under normal circumstances. We kept asking, ‘Is this the corona virus effect or the post-rain effect?’

“Either way, the corona virus, like so many other major disruptive events in our lifetime, sends surfers back to where it always makes sense because it’s never made sense: our local surf spot.”

(Thanks to additional reporting from Jason Lock of Magic Seaweed and Dashel Pierson of Surfline.com)

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