Surfing protesters (Gallo)
- Government’s incoherent lockdown regulations are highlighted by professional surfing being allowed again, but still being hamstrung by beaches remaining closed.
- Robin de Kock, Surfing SA’s GM, notes that the issue transcends the sport and is becoming an issue of the general population being denied the right to pursue another form of exercise.
- The tourism industry is also being dealt immeasurable harm as beaches are a critical attraction for travellers.
South African surfers remain up in arms over government’s inconsistent lockdown regulations.
While the sports ministry’s latest level three framework makes provision for the resumption of professional surfing, there’s a very important snag – training and events can’t take place because beaches remain closed.
Surfing SA (SSA), the sport’s national federation, earlier this week followed the example of its counterparts by submitting customised “return-to-sport” protocols, which the department has confirmed receipt of.
Yet even if those protocols are approved, it will require that Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, minister of corporate governance and traditional affairs, amend clause 39 of level three’s regulations, relating to the continued closure of beaches and public parks.
“That’s the real frustration of this whole issue,” Robin de Kock, SSA’s general manager, told Sport24.
“We’re not like other sports where professional athletes can train at specific venues. Our stadium is the ocean. Our professional surfers are keen to return to training. Surfing will make it’s Olympic debut in Tokyo next year and the stakes are high for some. They need to start competing again.
“Surfing is inherently a non-contact sport because of the interference rule.”
However, SSA, who insist their engagement with the “supportive” sport ministry has been productive throughout, actually don’t consider professionals their priority in their efforts.
“The whole issue isn’t really about surfing itself anymore. We’ve reached a higher level with this. This is about South African society in general,” said De Kock.
“Surfing’s professional sphere is quite small. Recreational surfing is way bigger in South Africa. We’re pleading with government for the right to exercise in the ocean via beaches. I want my grandkids and families to walk on beaches. This is not about surfing.”
He cites the “strange” example of general exercise being allowed under level three, with the exception of the ocean.
“I don’t understand it. I have many groups of two, four or six people that walk, jog or ride bicycles past my house daily. What is the difference between taking a brisk walk on the promenade and doing so on a beach? To also argue that the absence of lifesavers increases the danger associated with beaches is faulty.
“As is custom, there aren’t lifesaving services during winter. So even without the virus being present, there wouldn’t have been lifesavers on beaches currently.
“Beaches are vital to our tourism industry too. People don’t come to Cape Town to just ride a bus and stay in a hotel. They want a walk on our wonderful beaches. Most countries have re-opened theirs again. It’s a vital economic stimulus. Surely our stance needs to be re-examined.”