MOSSEL BAY NEWS - A Mossel Bay surfer who is a former heroin addict, started a petition which has more than 10 000 signatures, to have the lockdown ban on entering the sea lifted.
There have been a number of petitions against the lockdown rules, but this is one of the most successful in terms of number of signatures.
The surfer, who did not wish to be named in this article, said: "I believe it is essential to exercise. Surfing has definitely helped me a lot to cope with things that happened in my life.
"I was a heroin addict and surfing helped me to get active and also helped me a lot to relieve depression.
"I don’t agree with government banning surfing as it’s an exercise with the most social distancing one can do in the ocean. You have a greater chance of catching the virus when you go to the shop or even the pharmacy.
"I started the petition myself with some help with sharing it on the right platforms." The petition is available here to sign: http://chng.it/XR6kLRkpGm.
Brian Salter of Plettenberg Bay is chairman of the Eden Soul Surfers (ESS) - a group of longboarders aged from six to 75 years.
"Our area covers Still Bay to Plettenberg Bay."
Salter said there was a draw to the ocean that people did not understand. He said one out of every three times he surfed, he saw sharks, but that did not put him off.
"I know three guys bitten by sharks: one died and the other two are still alive and both still surf.
"Surfing is good therapy and if surfers can't surf they are irritable and you can't be near them. The waves are one of few places you get natural ozone - O3. You are breathing in healthy, ozone-rich air.
"When rain forms, natural ozone forms. That is why plants shoot up straight after the rain.
"To me it is not logical not to be allowed to surf."
Salter said surfers were not on the sand. "We use the wet piece (the sea) on the other side of beach. Surfing is a solo sport - good for people and for the psyche.
He explained that the ESS was the district chapter of the Western Cape longboarders and that Eden longboarders took part in SA Longboard Championships.
"We are part of Longboard surfing SA, which is affiliated to Surfing SA."
'In contact with many surfers'
Mossel Bay surfer Wade Shaw said: "I am not speaking on behalf of every surfer, but I am in contact with many surfers. Many of us take part in different formats of surfing and ocean use.
"In terms of the lockdown, it is not only about surfing, but as with the removal of some of the other basic rights, there is no logic.
With surfing, there is no congregating. You can walk straight to the water and enter the surf. The ocean is the safest place to be if you don't want to catch a virus.
"People at risk should be kept safe from the virus. Why should the lockdown affect 99.8% of the nation who are not at risk?"
Shaw said the ban on surfing affected all types of people from heads of national companies, to doctors, dentists, the self-employed, the average person, through to children from poor areas, people from all walks of life.
He mentioned that children who lived in Gatjie in Mossel Bay in tough circumstances, used surfing as a form of relief from their hardship. Now they were not allowed to "go to the beach and express themselves in a healthy manner" and they were safer in the water than where many people congregated at home.
He said: "I'm perturbed about this illogical, draconian restriction. Remove small basic rights and what else can be removed from you? Sitting on a 2m surfboard is not congregating; it doesn't break any laws."
Shaw noted that he had signed the petition which had more than 10 000 signatures to call for the surfing/ocean ban to be lifted.
He said the ban made no sense and made it hard to respect the current law and government, but "we want to be law abiding".
Shaw said he felt surfers were being targeted specifically.
"There were surfers arrested in the third or fourth week of the lockdown. They are making surfers criminals. The lockdown does not respect the constitution of SA and basic human rights. Also, people make a living from surfing. The occupation of giving surfing lessons feeds thousands of people, but now the right of surfing coaches to work, is taken away.
"We all have a right to protest peacefully. But people stood on the shoreline with their surfboards in protest and were arrested."
Coach and organiser
Mossel Bay's Llewellyn Whittaker is a surfing coach and organiser of the Surfing SA Importers Junior Classic (previously Boss of Moss), accredited by Surfing SA.
He said: "I went for a walk at Beacon Point, on the path, walking past people right next to me. There is the beach right next to me too. Why can I walk here and not walk on the beach? Why can people go walking on the St Blaize Trail, at the Point in Mossel Bay and on Cecil Shepherd Street, but can't walk on the beach?
Also, there are thousands of people walking in CT on the promenade. Why is surfing banned?
"There were four police cars chasing surfers around in Kommetjie in the Cape because they had been surfing. Police have better things to do. We don't sit on top of each other in the water. You get in your car, go surfing and go home."
* Notice: This report has been shortened.
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