Stab Magazine | Feature: Are You A Pandemic Pioneer?

Feature: Are You A Pandemic Pioneer?

Surf travel for anyone with a mask and thick skin

Words by Taylor Paul

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. 

Screen Shot 2020 07 15 at 3.24.14 PM

Maldives, recently reopened for biz. Photo: @niyamasurf

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. 

Screen Shot 2020 07 13 at 12.29.34 PM

Green means go. Worldwide opening hours as of July 13, via Kayak

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.



Comments are a Stab Premium feature. Gotta join to talk shop.

Already a member? Sign In

Want to join? Sign Up


Most Recent

The Undeniable Magnetism Of Craig Anderson

As explained by his longtime friend and photographer, John Respondek.

Mar 1, 2021

The Dark Hollow Collection Is Some of Globe and Dion Agius’ Best Design Work

If that doesn't float your boat, the rest of their Living Low Velocity range will.

Mar 1, 2021

Watch: A Creative Take On A Waco Film

Seager Co. with a delightful throwback to bit-style surf cinema.

Mar 1, 2021

The Flight Patterns Of Balinese Royalty

The Royal Beach Bum flies private.

Mar 1, 2021

Please Do Not Like Or Comment Below

Isn't that refreshing? Click or Miss Vol. 15

Mar 1, 2021

Three Boards That Saved My Hawaiian Season

The Ghost, Shadow, and Pyzalien 2 come to our rescue.

Feb 28, 2021

5 Things We Learned from Chapter 1 of ‘Andy Irons and the Radicals’

Who put that weed in Andy's bag?

Feb 28, 2021

The Opposite of a Vlog, Mauro Diaz Stars in ‘Aqui’

If you don't know Mauro Diaz, now's the time to get acquainted.

Feb 28, 2021

Not Your Typical Father-Son Outing

Mason and Michael Ho max out the wave count at Pipe and Backdoor.

Feb 28, 2021

Jett Fuel: A Little Something To Get The Blood Flowing

Leave your chakra stones at home, Jett Schilling will bring the energy.

Feb 27, 2021

What Surfing Archetype Are You?

Brendan Buckley gives you your options in this week's FWD.

Feb 27, 2021

The Fresh Prince of Aloha

Seth Moniz is making his ascent at Pipeline with grace, goodwill and old fashioned Aloha.

Feb 26, 2021

“It’s Really Top to Bottom and Hard to Get Into, But that Adds to the Fun”

Get a glimpse of Simon Hetrick's east coast existence in 'Dead April'.

Feb 26, 2021

“This Guy Had A Box Of Andy Irons Tapes That Hadn’t Been Digitized”

The Drop: How 'Andy Iron's And The Radicals' came to life and a chat with…

Feb 26, 2021

Say Hola To Lola

One of Mexico's most talented female longboarders.

Feb 26, 2021

Andy Irons and The Radicals, Chapter 1 of 4

Andy's childhood influences.

Feb 26, 2021

“A Laid Back Cool Cat With A Minimal Approach To Life”

Get to know the real Russell Bierke.

Feb 25, 2021

A Proven Step-Up For Your Post-Pandemic Escape

An introduction to the Channel Islands Happy Traveler.

Feb 25, 2021