Coronavirus presents a novel problem for surfers and organisers
It's the coronavirus article you don't need, that's more speculation than fact, and what facts there are will have changed by the time you finish reading.
We went to write this article last week, but at the time it was hard to believe the headlines - it was all doomsaying, surely?
But now travel bans are swiftly being enforced, the NBA season has been cancelled, and the virus is spreading in Australia, so it's reasonable to ask how surfers are going to be affected.
As of this morning, WSL employees have heard no news about the virus from their employer. To their mind, they'll be following the Oz/NZ leg: the Sydney Pro now, then Piha, then back to Oz for the Corona Open on the Gold Coast on March 26th.
Speaking of the Gold Coast, American actor Tom Hanks is on the Goldy and he and his wife have just contracted the virus.
It may be that, rather than take a pro-active stance like the NBA, the Woz is waiting for state and federal goverments to act first. Both Queensland Health and the Australian Department of Health have today issued general advice about travel and gathering in crowds. Neither is enough to question runnng the Corona Open, or Bells and Margs for that matter.
Unlike concerts and festivals, which are held indoors or amongst tightly packed crowds, or the NBA which is also held indoors, pro surfing has the obvious advantage of being run outside. As a precaution the Wozzle may dismantle the grandstands, deter people from gathering, tell fans to watch it on the webcast, and then run the CT leg as per normal.
They'll take a hit at the merch table, no doubt about it, but every pro sport is gonna take a bath in the coming weeks.
Travel between events has been a concern for some surfers. However, a handy byproduct of the virus is plumetting petrol prices so it's easy enough to skip the Virgin counter for Avis. Collect the keys at Coolangatta, hand them back at Margaret River.
If the Wozzle opts to run the Oz CT leg - that is, if they're allowed to run it and aren't prevented by authorities - the surfers have three domestic events in a row. They'll remain in Australia until May, perhaps even the end of May - the next event, G'Land, doesn't start until June 4th.
By that stage the news will be very different to what we're hearing now.
Of course, the news could be worse and travelling to Java via Bali - which recorded its first case yesterday - will be problematic. It may be 2001 all over, when Americans refused to travel after 911 and CJ Hobgood was declared World Champ by virtue of leading at the point it was cancelled. In 2001 five events were surfed: is three events enough to declare a winner?
At any rate, there's a thousand headlines between now and then.
While nothing official has been announced about the Tokyo Olympics - where surfing is debuting - the creeping assumption is that it'll either be cancelled or postponed for two years. Cancellation of the Games isn't new, they've been cancelled three times due to war, the last time was in 1940 and the host city then was also Tokyo.
For recreational surfers, especially those considering international travel, the news is equally grim. As of today, the US closed its borders to Europe, and commentators are expecting Australia to implement similar measures.
What country people are travelling to, or equally as important, countries they're travelling through, is vital. Take advice from DFAT not from the comments below. Consider that travel insurance companies no longer cover for any incident caused by coronavirus. That doesn't simply mean expenses for being medivacced or so forth, but cancellation of flights, unforeseen quarantines, any hitch that can be attributed to CV, and expect insurance companies to do their research.
For everyone else, there's no reason short of actually having the virus to stop surfing. Plus, the aforementioned petrol price drop makes a roadie that more viable. What you save on petrol, you can spend on handwipes, and chase uncrowded waves while Joe Public bunkers down awaiting the end of days.