“We want to Surf/Exercise”
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Dear Mr Alan Winde & President Cyril Ramaphosa
Firstly, I would like to thank you for all that you have done, and are continually doing, to help try protect the South Africans in this unprecedented time. The steps that you have taken to ensure the safety of our citizens will surely help our medical workers, and especially those that are medically vulnerable , as well as lay the ground for a speedy recovery for the sickly, sure it may lead to better preparedness for a worse or more life threatening situation in the future. For that, I’d like to thank you.
I am writing you, representing a population of South African 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 bring back a semblance of normal life in this very unusual time. I am talking about the surfers and ocean users that call the waters surrounding Western Cape and the South African coastline, home. For most surfers and ocean users, 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.
Now that many of us are unable to earn a living, we and others are starting to feel that this overrides some basic human rights and our own ground breaking constitution.
We believe that it is necessary that Western Cape waters and the RSA coastline re-open for swim, fishing and surf activities. Make the ocean available to those of us who do not crowd the beach or rocks with tents or large groups of people, but instead only use the beaches to walk from cars to the water, from cars to the ocean to swim or catch a fish. No problems with wearing a face mask to please the authorities when passing by strangers whilst keeping our distance. Once a surfer is in the water it is actually quite difficult to be within 2 meters of any person.
With moving water and a surfboard under us that is more often than not larger than 2m, 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. It is more risky to go to a local supermarket for bread.
There have been a handful of activities listed that are now allowed during our social distancing and stay-at-home orders like walking, running, and biking. We, as a community of South Africans whose ties and commonalities lie deeper than lines on a map, feel that surfing and access to the Western Cape waters are essential to our way of life.
At the time of us writing this, most beaches (if not all) in my local area of Jeffreys Bay to Lamberts bay have been shut down and it has been over 1 month our toes had touched the sand. Please stop the lockdown, otherwise you may lock up otherwise law abiding citizens. Most of us will follow your health guidelines no matter how much we may disagree with some of them. That being said, we think that there is a solution that we can agree on as citizens with you, our elected officials.
We are asking that all of Western Cape waters be open to provincial residents from sun up to sun down in our respective municipal areas, allow access to the beach only to walk from car to areas 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 country's most plentiful source of joy and effective form of therapy, the ocean. It is essential that all of Western Cape waters be opened and not just a few beaches, to prevent travel and unnecessary contact among surfers across provincial lines.
Attached are signatures from surfers all across South Africa, 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.
Our communities across the coastline depend heavily for survival and sanity on ocean activities. Impacting the lives of many young South Africans by allowing exercise that is good for body and soul.
Thank you very much for your time and consideration in this matter. I realize that for many Western Cape residents, this may seem like a trivial request by a small percentage of our population, but for those of us who love surfing and the ocean in South Africa and have grown up as part of the ocean itself; this is one of the things weighing heavily on our minds and on our hearts, especially during this time when we are not able to work our daily grind and have to find other ways to survive and help our communities.
Thank you again,
David G Visagie
(and thousands of other Southern African surfers)
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