Water sports make waves

2020-05-12 06:00
News24 captured the conflict between #BackInTheWater protestors and police.PHOTO: News24

News24 captured the conflict between #BackInTheWater protestors and police.PHOTO: News24

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Several incidents at beaches over the past two weeks and numerous social media posts regarding the continued restriction on water sports have residents at loggerheads.

Recently beaches were the stage for protests against the restriction on surfing and other water-related activities.

These protests came shortly after president Cyril Ramaphosa announced the Level four lockdown restrictions – a gradual return to normalcy – on Wednesday 29 April.

This allows for residents to run, cycle and walk within a 5km radius of their homes between 06:00 and 09:00 each morning, as of Friday 1 May.

Water sports, however, are still forbidden.

Surfers, divers and other ocean-lovers took to the seas in protest.

Police found more than 20 surfers, kite-surfers and wind-surfers already in the water at Kommetjie beach on Friday 1 May.

Sgt Leon Fortuin, a spokesperson for Ocean View police station, says a stand-off ensued with police calling on the protestors to return to the shore.

But police left the scene unsuccessful as those in the surf stood their ground (out on the waves).

On Tuesday 5 May, surfers across Cape Town organised a protest titled #BackInTheWater at Blouberg, Muizenberg and Kommetjie beaches.

Provincial police spokesperson Sgt Noloyiso Rwexana said arrests were made at Surfer’s Corner on the day.

“Muizenberg police attended to a group of about 30 surfers who wanted to surf on Tuesday morning. They were informed that it is against Disaster Management regulations to do so; others dispersed peacefully. Two men aged 52 and 65 were arrested and were released on a warning.”

Fortuin says they thwarted plans of another group of protestors in Kommetjie.

“We received information that there were going to be about 2 000 protestors. Because we knew about this, we got law enforcement, Metro police and the army to come to Ocean View. So by the time the surfers arrived, the police were already on the beach and National Sea Rescue Institute (NSRI) was already in the water,” he says.

After amicable talks, he says, protestors left the beach and no fines were issued.

Residents have continued to express their views on the movement since the protests.

“Not having the cognitive ability to appreciate the difference (between a violation of rights and inconvenience) is called ‘privilege’.

“Running around like petulant toddlers and wasting expensive and scarce community policing resources is ‘entitlement’,” wrote a surfer opposed to the return to the water.

But Jenna Skye, a surfer at Muizenberg, believes the sport offers more than just bragging rights for the affluent.

“A lot of people are saying that surfing is a ‘privilege’ sport, but surfing is an escape for a lot of people. For instance, my boyfriend suffers from depression and surfing is his escape from reality; and I feel that applies to a lot of people. Lots of people suffer from anxiety and depression.”

She adds that social distancing in the sport is certainly possible.

“The ocean is so big and you don’t really go out in groups. You usually do it for yourself, by yourself.”

Another surfer, Emanuel Cristaudo, agrees, saying surfers try to avoid each other.

“You actually try to paddle away from each other because you don’t want to catch the same wave – that’s etiquette – and it’s dangerous being close to another surfer. The act of surfing itself distances you from others.”

He says the management of surfers out at sea can be achieved.

“As long as the surfers come in their cars, unpack their boards, go straight in to have a surf and go straight back home, there’s no reason why they shouldn’t be able to do it.”

Richard John, a Muizenberg resident, says he would like to get back into his sport of choice too.

“I’m a keen golfer – hopefully we can get golf going soon, but is that the right thing? I don’t think it is.”

While he does believe the restrictions are in place for a reason, he does also wonder about how the rules are enforced.

“There’s some compliance with regard to wearing masks but, in particular, cyclists and runners don’t tend to wear them. I’m not in any way condoning the flagrant disregard of the law or promoting defying the state, but we need to talk about practicality,” he says.

A petition on Change.org to allow surfing was launched by David Slick more than a month ago. Despite the effort, neither local nor national government has given any indication thus far that water sports would be allowed during Level four of lockdown.

  • Share your opinion: racine.edwardes@media24.com.

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