Stab Magazine | When Will Surf Travel Return?

When Will Surf Travel Return?

Reports from Indo, Morocco, Mexico and more.

Words by Taylor Paul

The travel sector has received COVID’s global groin kick with especially open legs. The US saw a 95% decrease in air travel from February-May, hotel occupancy rates in Europe fell from 82% to 13.3% in March, and the UN estimates $1.2 trillion will be lost from the tourism industry during this pandemic, possibly more. In places like Indonesia, Costa Rica, Panama, South Africa, and so many others, foreign surf tourism has basically gone to zero. And while infection rates in many countries are decreasing, Americans are happily gargling the backwash from COVID’s first wave, and renewed lockdowns and travel restrictions are imminent. 

Now, I can find stats that support my argument all day long, but one thing that’s not clear is how you are thinking about surf travel. Are you waiting for a vaccine? Taking a domestic trip? In Mexico right now making out with some babe from Scottsdale? 

Let us know with this 2-minute survey. It’s anonymous, and we’ll use the info in aggregate to share with surf camps, resorts, hotels, etc. around the world. The more intel they have, the better they can plan. 

(Are you one of those properties that’s curious about the mindset of likely travelers? Let us know how you’re doing, here.) 

While we’re waiting for everyone to dance with our survey monkey, let’s hear from a couple of people that are on the ground in the places we pay big money to visit…

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Take all our rupiah. Photo: @hampositive

Scotty Hammonds is an Austramerican (from Encinitas, but uses words like “keen,” “whilst” and “torched”) photographer who lives in Bali and has been on-island for the duration of the pandemic. Here’s what he shared about living and surfing through Bali’s new abnormal:

Despite everything that has been going on, it has been quite incredible being in Bali these last few months. We’ve been seeing most surf spots that are usually packed with people absolutely empty. I don’t know if I’ll ever get to see places like Uluwatu and Keramas with no one out ever again, so it’s been a nice treat to surf as well as shoot. 

The island has been on lockdown for a few months now so aside from locals, expats and those stranded here, there have been no international flights coming in. That means all tourists that regularly come here haven’t been able to travel to the island. 

The local government has done a really good job of keeping things under control, with each Banjar (local council) handling the regulations for each area — this has ranged from making sure people stick to the curfews, enforce wearing a mask and unfortunately, keeping some beaches closed. 

As businesses are slowly starting to reopen and offering crazy deals at the moment, there is a sense of positive outlook moving forward. With the opening of these businesses still comes strict rules by the local Banjars — most venues require to check temperature upon entering and sanitize hands as well as keep social distance. 

While I selfishly have enjoyed how empty the lineups have been, I’m looking forward to the island getting back to normal so all the locals and everyone who has a business here can start to make a living again. Eighty percent of businesses in Bali rely on the tourism industry for income, so most businesses are suffering.

The community has really come together during this time — a lot of grassroots food banks, like Project Nasi, came to life, with daily meals and supplies being delivered all over the island. The support and focus has been on locals that are struggling. It’s inspiring to see everyone pitching in and coming together for those that need it most. 

There has been some chatter about a possible opening of the island to international tourism sometime in September, but this has yet to be confirmed. For up to date info on Bali travel, immigration and Covid stats there is a lady called Jackie Palmeri that has lived here for 30+ years that has created a very useful Facebook page that has fact-checked information with links and daily updates. 

Although it might be a while until things are back to “normal”, the island is continuing to adjust to the new way of doing things. For now, we’ll keep supporting local businesses and the community, whilst enjoying the empty waves.

Scotty signed off telling us about an upcoming trip to the Mentawais, where resorts and boats are offering prices between $1000-1800 for 10 days. “And the fact that there’s basically no one out there right now is just mind-blowing.”

Must be nice. 

Screen Shot 2020 07 09 at 10.20.21 AM

Not the Ments. But still good. Photo: @hampositive

Checking in with north Africa’s surf hub, and a promising target for an October-March score, we spoke with Denny Trolley, owner and operator of Moroccan Surf Adventures. He shared this about Morocco’s reopening plans and his camp’s adjustments to accommodate safe travel:

Morocco’s international airports and ports are still closed. We are hearing that the first flights will start from July 10, fingers crossed. What policies they put in place are still unknown but tourism is the second largest industry in the country so I presume they will want to get rocking and rolling sooner than later. 

We are planning to open our doors in August. It’s been quiet on the inquiries side of things — last week was our first time getting new ones since March — but I am sure this will change as soon as Morocco opens its doors to the world and the general public can book flights. 

We will of course be putting in measures for deep cleaning and the use of PPE for our staff and masks will be worn by our drivers, and we have made all holidays transferable or offer a full refund will be given.

Meals will be served to clients separately, so no more buffet-style service. The restaurant is designed to be opened up with huge sliding doors & we have plenty of outside eating areas anyways. We are very lucky to have plenty of space at the new villa and the village where we are based now is super quiet and quaint.

The UK opened up this weekend, pubs and restaurants were packed, so I am sure once people start to travel we will be able to give them the usual Moroccan experience. People’s memories are very short when it comes to enjoying themselves…

IMG 2462

Winter will be here sooner than you think. Photo: @morocsurf

Do you have COVID amnesia? Because there are countries that are already open to tourism. Nicaragua, Ecuador and Mexico, for example, will happily take your money. 

With the benefit of youthful invincibility, rising San Clemente stars Kade Matson and Crosby Colapinto recently went to Puerto Escondido, Mexico for the latest run of south swell. No complaints so far from Crosby. 

“The travel down here was mellow and the flight was super empty,” he said. “Puerto is pretty quiet but there are still a few heads on it. But the vibe is good and all the locals are friendly. Everyone just seems stoked to be in the water and surfing.” 

He flies back home Thursday, significantly more barreled than you. 

Stay tuned here for more surf travel info, or check sites like this for up-to-date operating hours of every country around the world. 

Missed the surveys above? Click here if you’re a surfer. If you’re a surf camp, resort, hotel or vacation rental that depends on surf travel, click here.


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