Feature: Are You A Pandemic Pioneer?
Surf travel for anyone with a mask and thick skin
In 2025 we’ll look back at the surfers who used the veil of COVID-19 to score empty surf around the world and either call them geniuses or idiots. Will you be among the Pandemic Pioneers, or will you wait for the last wave of the set to pass? Last week, we asked you when you thought surf travel was going to return, and the results shed light on your position:
27% of you said you plan to travel internationally in the next 3 months; 15% said before the end of the year; 29% said sometime in 2021; 25% said whenever you feel like your country and the destination has COVID under control; and 4% said only when there’s a proven vaccine or treatment.
When you do go abroad, the top 3 destinations you’ll visit are Indonesia, Mexico and Costa Rica.
67% of you can work or study remotely.
And when we passed you the mic, you said:
“Sort it out America, stop acting like a bunch of wankers and maybe the rest of us can start getting back to normal.”
“I’m in Huatulco now on a surf trip. Waves are firing with no one out. Locals are happy to see us and the community is doing a great job sanitizing everything and wearing masks.”
“It won’t be uncrowded very long. Indo was still crowded during SARS and soon after the Bali bombings.”
“This virus is bullshit you’re all weak cunts let’s go.”
“Florida is flatter than puberty tatas. I fucking need real waves. Get me out of here.”
Good ol’ Florida.
We also asked surf camps how they’re doing. 90% reported that occupancy has dropped more than 76% and said — and I’m paraphrasing here — “This is fucked. Please tell people to visit soon.”
So, there are surfers dying to travel and destinations dying to host them. Standing in their way are a global pandemic, uncertainty, red tape, fear and likely a bit of shame.
This is a gut-check for anyone that’s ever daydreamed of teleporting to the ‘70s, when surfers like Kevin Naughton, Craig Peterson and William Finnegan roamed the Southern Hemi harvesting virgin waves that today, under normal circumstances, are open from sunup to sundown to a conga line of sweaty international travelers.
Because COVID has forced many of these waves to be born-again, rolling in empty except for a few locals and castaways. And you don’t need to teleport to get there. You don’t need to hop steamships and camp out. You already know where the waves are, you know when the conditions will be right, transportation and lodging are modern and cheap, surfboards are incredible. You just need a few things:
Research: Sites like this will give you up-to-date info on the world’s current operating hours. But the best way is to email or DM surf camps at the places you want to go and ask them how you can get there. If anyone’s motivated to help, it’s them.
Testing: While there will be some countries that open their doors with little more than a preflight temp check, some will require a recent negative COVID test result. You might need to do this to board the plane, or get a test upon arrival.
Time: Do you have 14 days to quarantine on either end of your trip? Yes, you do. 67% of you said you could work or study remotely. Not every destination will require you to do this, but the more time you’re willing to sacrifice, the smaller the crowd at your destination.
Thick skin: Some people — friends, family, maybe a few Stab editors — are going to call you reckless and irresponsible. They might be right. Do you care? If going through customs felt like Circei’s walk of shame, would you still go?
For Americans and others that can leave their countries, the Maldives are doing charters again. Nicaraguan camps are doing discounts and flights are opening up in August. Salina Cruz camps will hear when they can officially reopen on August 1, though some are already welcoming guests on the DL. For Australians that are returning to their prisoner roots, there are local opportunities popping up. (We heard from the World Surfaris crew of some sneaky boat trips currently pioneering some clandestine domestic waves — more on that, with photos, in a couple of weeks.)
If you’re not at-risk, and social distance, and wear a mask, and follow guidelines, and don’t visit grandma when you return, you can probably rub your barrel shots in the naysayers’ faces with some defensibility. Then again, maybe you end up with the trending headline, “Selfish Surfer On Deathbed: “I thought it was a hoax.” Or worse, bring the virus on your carryon and introduce it to an otherwise healthy village. Most of us will consider the possibility of the latter and not go. Most of us will wait and see, and by the time we pull the trigger, the flights will be full and the window for empty surf will be a stinging memory. Most of us are sheep.