WHAT IT MEANS TO SURF DURING COVID-19

Updated: May 4


Comment by Janine Reith A comment is an expression of an opinion, a criticism or interpretation by the author.


Everyone knows the movie Pearl Harbor. There is one scene that especially attracts the eye of us surfers. It's that short part, where the Navy pilot is building a surfboard. He has a laminated board and he is shaping a tailfin. This takes place in 1941, during WWII in surfing's birth-place Hawai’i. Whether this is true surfing history or not, for us, definitely a scene to remember. 


There is another scene in the same movie that has a very lasting impression too, not just for surfers but in general. I’m sure you remember the part where Evelyn (Kate Beckinsale) who plays a nurse pulls out a lipstick and ‘marks’ patients. She is required to sort them into certain categories due to the very sudden and unforeseen admission of patients who need treatment and intensive care. This chaos occurs, because they don’t have enough space at their hospitals to treat everyone as there are too many patients at once. The situation results in her having to decide who is going to be given treatment and therefore a chance to survive and who is going to die. 


If they would have had more space, staff and equipment OR less patients at once, the curve could have been flattened and they would have been able to save a lot more lifes, even some of those who were in a critical state. But the situation was unpredictable, they had no choice nor time to get prepared as they got attacked during the war. The hospital was overwhelmed and they had to select which patients would be given treatment and which would be left to die. This very sad but necessary scenario is called ‘triage’. 


To illustrate the situation once again, here is the film clip of what you call ‘triage’: 


Does it ring a bell yet? 


The last time triage was practiced in most countries was during WWII, until COVID-19 struck.


What is currently happening in Italy, France, Spain and NY is exactly the same scenario!


Hospitals are overwhelmed with the amount of patients. Nurses and doctors have to practice triage to save lives whilst you are reading this. And this is the reason why we ALL worldwide (!) are asked to help FLATTEN THE CURVE to make the amount of patients more bearable for our hospitals. This is done by nothing else than to STAY AT HOME! 


We, other than the guys in the movie are given the opportunity to get prepared and possibly even avoid the worst case scenario! The difference between them and us is that our situation with COVID-19 has been predictable for quite a while. Right now you can see what is happening in other countries for example in Italy and learn from it. 


Maybe your country isn’t that affected yet, but it is very likely that the virus will keep spreading and hit you just as hard as it did with Wuhan, Italy, Spain, France and New York. 


If you want to believe in your conspiracy theory, go ahead! But please focus on the facts for now, you can still do your questioning afterwards. Don’t forget, that as a matter of fact, this virus has already claimed thousands of lifes. Another matter of fact is that a lot of hospitals are currently overwhelmed with COVID-19 patients. Nurses and Doctors are working 24/7 to safe lives. On the other hand, not just the governments but also the docs are asking us to perform social (physical) distancing and to not practice any kind of sport or activity that could put us at risk. 


It seems to me, that especially for surfers this is an extra tough task to implement, even though -and that is my opinion- it should just be self explanatory to everyone and especially to us surfers to follow the rules. 


Sports Leagues have been cancelled world wide. Play Offs are not being played, Finals are not taking place. Not a single champion is being crowned in any league whether it is soccer, basketball, hockey or any other sports league. Even the OLYMPICS that were set to take place in Japan this year have been postponed to 2021. The last Olympics which were set to take place in Japan were cancelled due to WWII! The ones this year are cancelled due to COVID-19.


Triage was last practiced in WWII and last time the Olympics were cancelled was during WWII as well. This just underlines the gravity of this situation once again. 


COVID-19 is in many countries already comparable, and we are only a few months in.., to the challenges they were facing during WWII. If that’s not a wake up call I don’t know what could possibly be one…


In Europe pro soccer players have resigned from their salary to rescue their second and third divisions, hockey players and athletes from all over the globe are reaching out to the world to help prevent the worst and are encouraging people to stay at home. Top notch athletes are being quarantined and they deal with it like the champs that they are.


All of that, while many in the surf world -beginners to pros- are still balling their hearts out about restrictions, such as closed beaches, surf or travel bans. They’re either completely unaware and/or ignorant about the actual issue here. I don’t know what’s worse: not knowing, not caring or ignoring... it’s simply embarrassing! 


Sports Leagues and Brands world wide are encouraging their athletes to take actions and set statements. New Balance for example started producing face masks instead of shoes.


Quite a while ago,


in Soccer, CR7 and many more have reached out,

in Hockey, Sydney Crosby and many more have reached out,

in Basketball, Carmelo Anthony and many more have reached out,

just to name a few!


I really wish more professional surfers would use their role model function as well, to encourage the world's current and very necessary movement to #stayhome instead of not saying anything at all. Gabriel Medina, Lakey Peterson, Yadin Nicol and a few more than a handful of our community have made a statement recently, but what’s the rest of the pack doing? The most influential ones?


Surfing is an individual sport, so I do to a certain extent understand the lack of team spirit we fail to have. We’re known to be selfish when it comes to waves! But I would have expected that especially us surfers, who always claim to be “oh so open minded“ and multi culturally educated -thanks to our travels to different spots around the globe-, have a little more sympathy and respect for this worldwide crisis especially for 3rd world countries like Indonesia. Most of all though, I would have thought that more of us would collaborate regardless! But what we are currently seeing a lot in our community is surfers doing e v e r y t h i n g, just to get to a wave. They’re breaking rules, disrespecting police and coastguards, putting others in danger with their selfishness. Some of them show neither insight nor respect. More dramatically expressed, they’re sacrificing lives to satisfy their needs.  


How selfish and non-solidary is it to think our sport is the only one that should be treated differently during a time, when every other sport is momentarily banned? What makes some people think they have the privilege to go surf in areas where it is strictly forbidden?  No argument in the world justifies this behaviour. And please spare me the ‘my freedom’ and ‘I am solo surfing and therefore isolated’ discussions - it’s simply selfish and lacking solidarity at a maximum limit, if these are your thoughts. Also if you have chosen a different country than your own to live and surf in, respect the law, culture, people etc. You are just a guest. If the rules and laws don’t suit you, well maybe you should overthink your chosen home?


Not to mention the high risk factor…Surfing is a high risk sport! This means, the issue here is not yet alone the lack of isolation. We could eventually make this happen at some places in the world by surfing at less crowded spots (which is challenging at most spots though). But it’s more so the risk that performing certain types of sports contain. Some are more likely to result in heavy injuries that need treatment or intensive care, rather than jogging for example. Surfing is one of them! You never know, whether or not a frother runs you over or all of a sudden your board turns into your enemy by causing you a gnarly fin cut or broken ribs. Additionally another injury that requires intensive care is having salt water in your lungs, which not only requires a breathing machine but also intensive care for approx. 2 weeks. Just to name some of the most common risks we take. Driving around Canggu in search for open beaches without wearing a helmet is one of them too! Imagine all the intensive care‘s being occupied by COVID-19 patients when you need treatment after a bad injury or even a shark attack. The door swings both ways obviously. Having to get stitches or a treatment for a dislocated shoulder requires a doctor as well, one that could save a COVID-19 patient's life at the same time as he/she is treating your minor surf injury that could have been avoided by refraining from doing your favorite activity…


My point is, we are all in this together and it seems that only with joined forces we can overcome this crisis. So why don’t we ALL do our best to at least give it a try? Every other professional and non-professional athlete, every individual is suffering just as much as we are for not being able to do what we love the most. 


Why can’t so many surfers seem to simply follow the rules for a couple of weeks? If surfing is banned at your local beach, get a grip on yourself and stay home. If not, enjoy, but do it thoughtfully at least! Make common sense more common, so to say.


The good news is, you don’t have to be Ben Affleck aka Rafe or Josh Hartnett aka Danny to help all the nurses out there. There is no need to fly combat aircrafts through the air to fight the enemy today (COVID-19). All you need to do is stay at home and keep your distance from others when you’re practicing life-necessities such as grocery shopping for example. ‘Surfing is our life’ we say, and therefore we often consider it a life-necessity too. But once you see your country, your friends or your family, your loved ones suffer, you’ll realize that your local nurse becomes a life-necessity much rather than your local beach ever will. And that in reality, correspondingly outside of your carefree salty surfing bubble, only HEALTH really is life because without it, you aren't able to surf! 


xoxo


Janine 








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