The year 2020 is in the final stretch of its seemingly never-ending series of shocking events. There were times it was tough to keep moving forward and just go with the flow, but pushing through the holiday season amidst a raging pandemic is like flying through the doggy door of 2021. This new decade is kicking off with a bang, wave after wave of crises still crashing down behind us, but we’d all still like to say we at least enjoyed the ride, wouldn’t we?
Here are a handful of glass-half-full takes from the challenges that 2020 brought some of us in surfing, hoping to remind us all to keep positive…despite testing positive.
Borders Were Locked Down: People Got Stuck In Remote Places and Absolutely Scored
Imagine being one of those folks “stranded” at a prime surf destination this year with nothing else to do but score. While many of us may have been cooped up at home salty over canceled trips, there were plenty of individuals who hunkered down in remote places and let us live vicariously through them. Anthony Fillingim, a professional surfer from Costa Rica, and a Polish traveler named Tomek Niewiadomski were two such souls who found themselves with unexpected, ultra-extended stays at Kandui Resort in Indonesia. Fillingim ended up staying for five months, and he packed endless all-time waves, swell after swell, and his story reminded us of that romantic notion that surfing can be, clichés aside, a welcome escape for those of us who seize the opportunity.
I wish that the Australia, Fiji, and Tonga trip I had lined up had come together before the world shut down, and maybe, just maybe, I could have been lucky enough to get marooned in some remote surf paradise like Fillingim. But Baja ain’t too shabby either. So It wasn’t such a bummer after all.
I willingly stranded myself for two months at a remote Baja break, and although the border was supposedly closed to non-essential travel, I still had to surf relatively crowded lineups with California folks who had the same thought. Even now, with promises of vaccine distribution on the horizon, we still don’t know how and when surf travel will be at full speed again. While I’m all for getting jabbed with that “immunity passport” it will still be a couple of weird years for the travel, tourism, and hospitality industries.
The WSL’s CT Season (and the Olympics) Was Canceled: But We Got the Pipe Masters
For the Average Joes out there, watching the world’s best surfers score the world’s best waves is an unparalleled form of entertainment. Travel restrictions, health and safety restrictions across the globe, and all the travel involved in completing a World Tour season made this year’s CT impossible. And free surf videos and vlog content from those sidelined competitors didn’t quite satiate the global surf fan.
I do think that break from professional surfing allowed all of us to take a step back and really value something we typically take for granted, both in and out of the water. After a canceled 2020 CT and postponed Olympic debut, the most prestigious event of the year did come through for us even in spite of a temporary Coronavirus shut down. It was yet another bummer to take on, but I was glad to see the precautions and the extent of the effort it took to ensure the Pipe Masters was completed, making history in the process with the women competing at Pipe in a World Tour event of their own.
The Ocean Got a Much-Needed Break
The pandemic gave a well-deserved acoustic break for marine life. Fewer cruise ships, a lower overall environmental footprint, and even less actual noise. It’s finally quiet in the subsurface realms, and even whale songs can be heard louder and clearer than in the last few decades.
The pandemic opened our eyes to a natural world that’s deeply out of balance and since we can only protect that which we know, now more than ever it’s so important to preserve our biodiversity because no matter what happens to us, life will go on without us. And that kind of helps me sleep at night.
Working from Home Is a Big Thing Now; And Home Is Where the Waves Are, Right?
The pandemic-fueled Zoom era has given more people the opportunity to find the freedom and flexibility to work from wherever they can get a stable internet connection. I don’t know how many of you actually enjoyed working in your sweatpants, but it was definitely boardshorts and sandy feet for many of us who could make post-surf video conferences a regular thing in 2020. I’ve actually met many people this year who ran with the mass transition to remote work, left their colder homefronts and took up longterm Airbnb rentals so they could soak up the Baja sun while on the clock.
The pandemic gave the most fortunate amongst us a well-deserved break from the standards of workplace dress codes, clocking in, and unwanted watercooler small talk. We can now bask in the glory of making the most of our own time however we see fit, investing more energy in our health and things that give us joy.
Make no mistake, we all know 2020 handed people a lot of tragedy and despair. Lives were lost while millions of others lost their livelihood and face new struggles. Collectively, more than ever, we need each other’s support to navigate it all. The endless stream of bad news and disastrous events have seemingly made this year the shittiest on record. And in that, it’s easy to miss the silver linings that it all brought. We just need whatever positivity we can find to turn those tables and find the bright side.
I’m sure I’m not the only one that believes 2021 will be better, and there are just a few more days until the page is turned. We still have challenges to face: financial, geopolitical, and environmental crises are still looming over us, so I guess we can think of 2020 as a warm-up. It’s okay to wipe out from time to time, to find yourself caught inside, as long as you don’t stop paddling. We can all find the best wave if we’re patient, determined, and continue to flow with the uncertainty of these times.
Stay radical, stay healthy, and stay positive.