Surfing Montauk with Debra Rose

May 2020

Surfers in the Distance

“When the freedom they wished for most was the freedom from responsibility, then [they] ceased to be free.”  – Edith Hamilton, in reference to the history of Athens

Debra Rose

Paying the price for freedom isn’t limited to the population of Ancient Greece. Our current situation requires us to make sacrifices and put limits on things we once took for granted, all for the common good.  The better and faster we execute on those sacrifices, the more successful and free we will be in the long run.

Surfing is no exception. For those who surf, it can be a religion, an obsession, a favorite pastime, a form of therapy, a way of life or a method to keep our sanity.  We now face challenges and restrictions to achieve that balance of maintaining our freedom to surf and to do so in a way that is safe for everyone.  Balancing freedom and responsibility, and lives are at stake.  Not just for ourselves or our wave, it’s for our community.

Responsibility. One can argue that surfers purposely practice social distancing to jockey for a better position in the line-up or to be the first to paddle for an incoming set-wave.  Naturally we are doing our part, but there are still potential consequences.  One surfer agreed.  “I would argue that I and other surfers I know keep our distance when we are out in the water, and it’s the activity keeping me sane at the moment.  We want to be safe too.”  “I would rather be in the water than on line at the IGA, the chances of getting sick just seem lower,” another surfer chimed in.

Is it Safe? Microscopic aerosol particles can be transmitted in the water among a group of surfers in close proximity, which naturally happens if there is one peak spot in the water or a current pushes everyone together.  If you are in a cluster of surfers, remember that viruses can remain active for days in saltwater, and are spread via sea spray through the air.  Some studies show the potential for microbes to travel across distant oceans if they are caught in a weather pattern or current.

Since we are still learning about the power of viruses and their transmission, its possible that surfing can be risky.  The other concern remains on the beach, where we want to be especially when it is finally warmer.  “I have never seen Montauk this crowded, everyone is walking and running around from being cooped up for so long.  I am all for fresh air, but we have to do this in a safe way,” one local mentioned.

There will be times when the surf is good and as many as thirty surfers can be in one spot.  How can you balance staying sane and staying safe?

While so much has been taken away, we still have so much left if we welcome other activities available to us.  If you choose to surf, do so safely and follow the social-distancing rules in and out of the water from the parking lot to the line-up.  The more we take responsibility for surfing safely, not surfing at all, and encouraging others to do the same, the sooner we are rewarded with our freedom.  Like all things, this sacrifice is temporary.