Surfing in COVID territory

Surfing in COVID territory

Posted by phil kelly on

COVID Surfing

On the morning of March 24, I drove to my normal surf spot, Swamis, in Encinitas, California. I am a dawn patroller and usually hit the water before light with the same 10 guys, most mornings. We’re usually joined by another 5-10 infrequent, but recognizable surfers and the “never seen before” visitors.

What was different this particular morning was that the parking lot was closed and there were signs stating the “beach is closed due to COVID”. Not only was the parking lot closed but there was a barrier across the stairs we usually take to the break. So, what to do? Many of us parked across the street and climbed over the barriers and down the stairs to surf as normal, after all, we’re “locals”.

That worked for a couple of days, until someone in the lineup said the Sherriff would not let them back up the stairs after the session. They were forced to walk the 2 miles up to Moonlight Beach to exit and then walk 2 miles back to their cars. We all took notice of this and knew we couldn’t do the “local over the barricade” move anymore. A few tried taking the goat trail down to the beach, but with my longboard, they would probably find me impaled on it at the bottom once the sun came up.

California was under lockdown and “Stay at Home” orders were in place. For a couple of weeks, we could not get to the water. A surfer barred from the water? Talk about idle hands! Gyms closed, walking paths closed, beach closed, wow, I guess we really had to stay at home.

Thankfully after a couple of weeks, a few beaches were opened, like Moonlight Beach. We could go in the water, but it’s about 2-mile hike to get to Swamis. Hauling a longboard both ways was brutal. Some guys had e-bikes, other’s had beach cruises and if you ride a “shorty” the hike is not that big of a deal. But for me, it was a huge deal. So, I decided to find a better way.

First, I thought about light epoxy boards. But, they are really squirrelly and I don’t like the feel or ride. Then I tried driving my van to the beach, take my bike off the back, load my 9’6” board on the side and ride down to the break. Have you even driven a bike with this long of a board with a little breeze outside? Forget it, it was worse than walking. I tried carrying my board on my head, shoulders and about every other known carrying method but nothing worked. I tried board straps and even a handle, but they were not much better.

I had no choice but to get really creative here. I decided to take one of our waterproof backpacks and convert it into a longboard carrying backpack. I created holes in each side of the backpack so the 23” wide long board could slide though. Cinched the top so that the backpack was centered on the board and lifted it onto my back. Talk about “6-feet apart”, I looked like some “humanplane” abomination. I had a backpack carrying a long board perpendicular to my body with about 4’ of board sticking out on each side. I used this for about 10 days, and it was awesome. Several people stopped me on the beach and wanted to know where I got it, and just as I was seriously thinking about making this, they opened up the parking lots and stairs again.
So, longboard backpack carrier was sent to the back burner.

Before COVID, the usual routine after parking in the morning was to go to the rail, take a look at the waves, and comment to fellow dawn patrollers about what you see. Sometimes you’d see if anyone was going out or there was always conversation about the surf the day before.

This has all changed with COVID. Now when you go to the rail in the morning, you stay a distance apart from guys you have known forever. Most are wearing masks, and if you’re not, you’re a Kook. COVID has made us less social and buy being more respective of another person’s space we don’t connect as much. Then guys were wearing masks going down and up the stairs. Do I need to do this also? Wear a mask down the stairs, leave it somewhere on the rocks, and put it back on to come up the stairs. It makes sense as the stairs have now become the “Encinitas Gym” for locked out gym goers.

Thank goodness no one has taken to wearing a mask in the line-up. It can get crowded, but we try to give others space while surfing. COVID has also swelled the amount of people in the water. With offices and gyms closed, people have more time to get into the water. If I were them, I would too. But when you see 40 surfers in the water and there are always 3 or 4 paddling to catch the way, with no vacant waves, maybe you should find a different spot. I sound like a “local” right? It’s just common sense.

Looking back, I am just amazed at how much COVID has changed our daily lives. I just recounted my surfing experience here, but this is nothing in comparison to the devastating effects it has had on people’s lives and those who are no longer with us. When considering this, yes, we should wear masking in the parking lots, stairs and anywhere we are around others. We might be protecting them from us!

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