To be clear, not all surfers are alike. There’s a shared pursuit. A lingo. We tend to settle in coastal areas. Outside of those factors, well, we don’t agree on much.
Case-and-point, Surfer Magazine, long-known as the “Bible of the sport”, recently weighed in on the debate that’s raging over whether or not surfing should be allowed while social distancing mandates remain in place and businesses are shuttered. Much like Christian theologians, surfers have differing–and passionate–feelings about the words from their holy scripture.
If the comment thread on Facebook is any indication, the op-ed “If You’re Rejecting Surf Restrictions Right Now, You’re Missing the Point” , may rank as one of the most controversial things written for a surf-focussed publication, ever.
So when Surfer asked me to report on Northeast Florida lifting its restrictions on surfing, I was hesitant. But given what the outside world has been saying about the state of Florida–#floridamorons trended widely after photos taken in the minutes and hours after restrictions were lifted on Duval beaches were shared by local and national media outlets–I was certain the surf community in Jacksonville could provide at the very least a more nuanced take on surfing in the time of coronavirus.
I talked to local surfer-shaper, and Resident Nurse Jay Gordon. I also phoned local surf star Cody Thompson. I looked at the data–the number of cases in our region, the percentage of positive tests. I compared the responses of our local leaders, the restrictions put in place, to those made by leaders in other areas. There seem to be more questions than answers at this point.
Bottom line: absent federal or state mandates, our local leaders made the call to allow surfing and beach-based activities based on a range of factors. Lenny Curry told surfers they could surf, so they did.
Is it a big experiment? Yep. Is surfing safer than going to Home Depot? Who knows? But we’re currently told we can do both while practicing social distancing.
If California Gov. Gavin Newsom, or the mayors of cities in that state, lifted restrictions on surfing tomorrow, would surfers in California surf? I would venture to say yes. Would #californiamorons subsequently trend? Probably not.
For now, Duval and St. Johns County beaches are open for surfing (during limited hours). As Gordon and Thompson told me for the piece I filed with Surfer, the best thing we can do now is behave responsibly.
Here’s the Surfer piece. Stay safe. Behave responsibly. Keep your distance.