Covid-19, Swellnet, and the way forward
To say that we’re in at time of unprecedented upheaval seems kinda irrelevant now.
I really wanted to avoid being yet another business making public statements about Covid-19. Over the last two weeks my inbox has filled with generic messages from almost every company I’ve ever transacted with, telling me to wash my hands and practise social distancing. You don’t need to hear that from me.
But my hand has been forced, because Swellnet is now in an unusual position where we’re receiving a deluge of feedback - through our website comments, email forms and social media channels - about how we should be running our business.
The problem is that everyone has a completely different view.
Some surfers have congratulated us for keeping the website live. Many people who access Swellnet don’t always have any intention of visiting the beach, but they like to stay connected to the ocean - albeit digitally - and so Swellnet is a small lifeline of sanity.
On the other hand, some surfers have pinpointed our surf reports, forecasts and surfcams as being the primary source for busy beachside carparks around the country. The odd thing about these claims are that most of the crowding issues seen in mainstream media are associated with beach-goers (not surfers) and in many cases have occurred at beaches without surf (i.e. St Kilda).
To help address the issue, we placed a notice atop our Surf Reports and Forecaster Notes. In capital letters, it states: “UNLESS YOU LIVE AT THE BEACH, PLEASE DON'T TRAVEL TO SURF”.
Included below was some reasoning: “Travelling to the surf now means you're putting an unnecessary strain on the resources of small regional communities. So, please stay home.”
We thought this was a useful surfer's translation of the government’s already-clear message, which is: “Stay At Home”.
Unfortunately, this has been misinterpreted by some as being a kind of ‘Locals Only’ enforcement. It’s nothing of the sort, it’s simply reiterating the fact that by travelling away from your home - whether that's one kilometre, ten kilometres, or one hundred kilometers - you risk unknowingly transporting Covid-19 to another suburb or region which doesn’t have the same resources as bigger cities.
The same principle applies if you were thinking about travelling inland for a spot of rock-climbing or fishing. Please stay at home. Just because you don't have symptoms, it doesn't mean you aren't infected. The government's advice is to act like you DO have Covid-19, and curtail any unnecessary activities and travel.
As for the suggestion that Swellnet should shut down its services indefinitely so as to stop surfers heading to the coast: it’s a futile strategy. Our subscriber number is very low relative to the amount of surfers around the country, and any surfer hell-bent on defying the advice and getting wet will simply look for another resource to provide the information they need.
Should we also ask the BOM to cease live weather feeds, and the various government departments to switch off wave buoys? How about other websites that provide surf and beach information?
And more importantly, at what point are services allowed to resume? We cannot underestimate how long Covid-19 is likely to influence our lives, and lifestyle. Current governmental advice suggests six months of significant disruption, some specialists suggest much longer.
Swellnet doesn’t have a communications department, nor do we employ PR strategists. We’re just another small family-owned business trying to plot a path forward, and hoping that we don’t have to close the doors like so many others have unfortunately been forced to do.
We’re very thankful for your ongoing support. And, we are also grateful for the opportunity to provide a platform for surfers to discuss this issue.