The Great Reset
“Dad, you’ve got to hear this,” said my youngest, going through the horoscopes in the weekly paper.
I was putting wet wetties out to dry after yesterday arvo’s waves, and thinking deep down that they might well be the last ones for a while. The closure of French beaches was one thing, but the lockdown of Sydney’s eastern beaches was giving me serious pause for thought, and I’d just rescheduled the regular family trip north until next year.
“It says that you’re finally going to get a big project done,” she said. “Does that mean that with coronavirus keeping us at home you’re finally going to get the pergola finished?”
As they say, every cloud has a silver lining, and at this point in time it might do us all well to try to find them. With so much happening so quickly and so much of it being the stuff of nightmares, it’s easy to focus on the negative. The fact that the stakes are much higher than they have been in a long time doesn’t make it any easier to see the positives, either. But we owe it to ourselves and everyone around us to try.
Depending on where you sit on the surfing spectrum, we’re already being affected by this and are about to go under a few more set waves before any kind of lull eventuates. The effects are many and varied, and it’s going to impact every aspect of our lives.
My first thought a few weeks ago was that the international situation was going to ground the travellers for the whole Indo season and the surf at home would not be only more crowded, but there’d be more good surfers in the water. Those who follow or and/or rely on the Wozzle are upset the comps are being postponed. The competitive crowd can’t compete, even in their local clubs. Demand for boards and gear are likely to slow down as jobs are affected, with flow-on effects likely throughout the industry. The list goes on, and now we have a question mark hanging over the very notion of going to the beach.
Most of us know how good surfing is for us – for some it’s exercise, others need it to clear their heads and escape the reality that disappears when you hit the water and descends again once pull your leggie off (sorry, hipsters). As someone who works from home, I enjoy the social contact in the water and the chance to muck around. But having had extended periods out of the water due to injury, I know that it can be done.
At the moment we have a couple of different surfing scenarios to choose from, though with things changing as fast as they are, things might be quite different by the end of the week, if not sooner. As I see it, it pretty much boils down to this:
- We get to keep surfing if we maintain social distancing or
- Beaches get closed as part of a broader lockdown
If we get to keep surfing, which I doubt we will, I suspect a great many of us will be very happy. Nobody likes being out of the water or watching good empty waves reel off….at least not for more than a minute or two if you haven’t been wet already. But if we do, it is going to be pretty crowded, and there’s a good chance the stress and general desperation that seems likely to evolve is going to spill over into the water. The other challenge we have is that while surfing is one of the few things which are often better on your own, to get through this we’re all going to have to pull our weight as a society.
Perhaps if were to take a different approach, perhaps if we were to treat this as a bit of a turning point, perhaps we could actually make surfing the salve we will so desperately need from the reality on its way over the next few months or the tonic we get to return to once it settles down. Perhaps this provides the opportunity for a bit of a reset.
To illustrate, I think bog-roll-rage and surf-rage have a lot in common. Some people are taking more than their fair share and others are missing out. They’re barging in and in some cases fighting over a finite item that everyone considers essential. There’s been widespread community outrage directed at the hoarders and those who won’t share, because they’re not playing by society’s rules. Perhaps this shared experience provides a chance to reset everyone in the water - from good surfers to beginners - on what the rules of surfing are.
Tolerance is a concept which rarely makes an appearance in surfing. Lip service perhaps, but once you’re in the water surfing is probably as close to the law of the jungle as you can get in the modern age. A veritable vestige of the good old days. Having surfed for a long time and earned my stripes, there’s a part of me that, if I’m honest, has some time for the Darwinian approach. Yet I’m not sure it will serve us that well in the increasingly stressed and crowded future we face, even without COVID-19. To keep the stalwarts happy, perhaps there’s a way to keep the best parts of the jungle journey – the learning process, surfing places which match your ability, the safety of a lineup where everyone knows what they’re doing – but to introduce a bit more kindness and practice more of the Australian egalitarianism that we’re quick to claim is part of our DNA.
You could call someone into a wave. Take your turn and don’t paddle for set waves if you just caught one. Go to the end of the line if you paddle and miss the wave. Let the learner flapping around out wide know that they are much safer learning on the inside. Be quick to apologise if you drop in by mistake, and go home if you do it deliberately. Wear a legrope so your board doesn’t collect people. Paddle for the whitewater instead of the shoulder. And make sure you hoot.
I really hope you don’t sneak out for a wave if the beaches are closed. You won’t see me - I’ll be on the tools in the pergola.
// STEVE BLACKLEY
(Homepage and article photo Craig Brokensha)