Surfing is an "Essential Activity"
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First, I would like to thank you for all that you have done, and are continually doing, to help protect Floridians in this unprecedented time. The steps that you have taken to ensure the safety of our citizens will surely help our medical workers, and those who are in vulnerable populations, as well as lay ground work for a speedy recovery, and I’m sure more preparedness for similar situations in the future. For that, and many other things, I’d like to thank you.
I am writing you, representing a population of Florida citizens that have been affected by this pandemic, and our new social restrictions, in a unique way and we all believe that you have the ability to help us to bring back a semblance of normal life in this very unusual time. I am talking about the surfers that call the waters surrounding Florida, home. For a large number of Florida surfers, surfing is more than just a hobby. Surfing is a time for us to be alone with our thoughts, away from the struggles of everyday life, away from stress, anxiety, depression, and most importantly at this moment in time, people.
We believe that it is necessary that Florida waters remain open and available to those of us who do not crowd the sand with tents or large groups of people, but instead only use the sands to walk from cars to the water. Once we are in the water it is actually quite difficult to be within 6ft of any person. With moving water and a surfboard under us that is more often than not larger than 6ft, we believe that there is very little, if any, risk to our health or the health of the communities around us, in having waters open to people who truly need it.
There have been a handful of activities listed that are still allowed during our social distancing and stay-at-home orders like golf, swimming, hiking, running, and biking. We, as a community of Floridians whose ties and commonalities lie deeper than lines on a map, feel that surfing and access to Florida waters are essential to our way of life.
At the time of me writing this, most beaches (if not all) in my local area of North East Florida have been shut down and it has been over 2 weeks since my toes have touched the sand. I’m sure by now you’ve seen, or at the very least heard of, members of our community claiming that they will find a way to the water no matter the laws set before us, but this is a small fraction of Florida surfers. Most of us will follow your guidelines no matter how much we may disagree with them. We will continue to not access waves no matter the negative effects it will have in our everyday lives. That being said, we think that there is a solution that we can agree on as citizens and elected officials.
We are asking that all of Florida’s water be open to state residents from sun up to sun down in our respective counties; allow access to the beach only to walk from car to water, and water to car in counties where we are residents. This is something easily enforceable and easily identifiable. No lingering on the sands. No hanging out in parking lots. Just access to what we have found to be, our state’s most plentiful source of joy and effective form of therapy, the ocean. It is essential that all of Florida waters be opened and not just a few counties, to prevent travel and unnecessary contact among surfers across county lines.
Attached are signatures from surfers all across the state, respectfully asking you to allow us to once again feel the joy of being in the ocean, and vowing to accept the responsibility of still maintaining safe distances while we partake in something that is so much a part of who we are.
Thank you very much for your time and consideration in this matter. I realize that for many Floridians, this may seem like a trivial request by a small percentage of our population, but for those of us who love surfing in Florida and have grown up as part of the ocean itself; this is one of the things weighing most heavy on our minds and in our hearts during this time.
Thank you again,
Gregg Matthew Mattson
(and thousands of other Florida surfers)
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