Portuguese surfers urge authorities to reopen access to the ocean

April 23, 2020 | Surfing
Portugal: the European country closed beaches early to help stop the spread of Covid-19 | Photo: Pikas/WSL

The president of the Portuguese Surfing Federation (FPS) wants surfers back in the water when the State of Emergency is lifted.

João Aranha wrote a letter to the Portuguese government, to the president of the Republic, Marcelo Rebelo de Sousa, and to the national parliament with a set of recommendations to authorize the surfers' return to the waves.

The economic impact that the novel coronavirus Covid-19 had on surfing in Portugal and the clarification of the rule that grants access to the sea and not the beach, were two of the main topics addressed by the FPS.

"We want to get back to the water when the emergency period is lifted, supposedly on May 2. We still need to give it some time," Aranha told Lusa, the Portuguese news agency.

"We think we will have a positive response from the government because the executive itself is already planning for a gradual opening of the sea."

The president of FPS asked the government to "listen and understand" their concerns and promises to ensure surfers follow strict rules and guidelines regarding the safety of everyone.

Health and Wellbeing Needs

Aranha points out "health and wellbeing needs" and underlines that there are differences between returning to the surf zone and the beach.

"For us, the beach is a crosswalk and not a place where we stay and gather. Our environment is the ocean, the waves, and we want to return to it. We understand that the government has fears regarding the gatherings on the beaches, and that is understandable," he notes.

But João Aranha wants to make sure "surfers get access to the ocean. They are anxious and desperate to get back."

The Portuguese Surfing Federation is also worried about the economic impact that the lockdown will have in surf schools, events, and sponsorships.

"What concerns me the most and what's critical are surf schools and surf lessons. They are in an extremely complicated situation. There has to be a way to help them return gradually to business. They should be allowed to resume work with rules and classes with fewer students," adds Aranha.

The National Surfers Association (ANS) also believes that the government will be open to their arguments, and the sport will resume its activity by May 3.

"We believe that the municipalities are open to it, and we hope that the government will allow the sport to transition back to normal," stresses Francisco Rodrigues, president of ANS.

Nevertheless, Rodrigues knows that this will be a long process and that the priority is to allow recreational surfers to return to the waves - events will resume afterward.

Despite having a low number of Intensive Care Unit (ICU) beds per 100,000 inhabitants compared to other European countries, Portugal was quick to lock down and adopted conservative measures that have helped flatten the Covid-19 curve.

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