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The Inertia

France is in lockdown, much like the rest of the world. Surfing is forbidden, but no one told that to the waves. They have been perfect, and the forecast looks good. It could very well be the best spring we’ve ever seen here.

France entered its first day of lockdown on March 17. Bars, shops, and even the staple French bakeries closed their doors. The beaches closed next, and surfers, like everyone else, had to stay home.

As COVID-19 spread around the world, lockdown in the southwest of France came with a long stint of beautiful weather, especially in the coastal region of Les Landes. The area is a collection of seaside towns that usually have cold, rainy springs, but this year, summer came early. Along with the sunshine came another anomaly: offshore winds, head high swell, and completely empty lineups that have turned a French surfer’s dream spring session into a true test of resilience.

Very few surfers are taking the risk, but a handful have paddled out. If they do, it’s usually early in the morning — at day-break or even under the full moon. Those who do paddle out risk a heavy police presence and hefty fines. Helicopters are flying over empty beach breaks while police on motorcycles and electric bikes scan the shoreline, searching for rule-breaking surfers.

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In Landes, where the coast is 60 miles long and protected by miles of dunes, the risk of spreading the virus while surfing by yourself is low. Still, though, the law isn’t letting up — if everyone were to attempt to surf alone, after all, no one would be surfing alone. Despite the strict rules around surfing, going for a run or taking a walk in crowded cities is still allowed.

Some surfers can’t resist the call of perfect waves, but the majority are. Either the fear of police repercussions or in solidarity with the hospitals’ attempt to lessen their loads is keeping them out of the water — or its simply accepting the rules of this tragic crisis.

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