It poured in Los Angeles today. Which was fitting. Shakesperean. A pandemic has gripped the earth. Italy canceled all non-essential business. Flights from Europe to the United States halted for 30 days. The 11-year bull market died. The NCAA tournament was canceled for 2020. Optimistically, the WSL canceled the first World Tour event of the year and all events in March.
The world just changed. We’re in a moment together.
The good news, I suppose, is that this is the moment. All of the fear and anxiety that’s been dreading the impending collapse of more than a decade of relatively uninterrupted (market) prosperity can breathe a sigh of relief. This is the thing we all need to deal with together. We can do that. Hard times bring people together.
When the market collapsed in 2008, I was just a year out of college, and furlough just meant I got to surf more and didn’t have to run Surfer’s website on the weekends. A surefire, uncomplicated win. I have a bit more context now. This pandemic has already and will cost many human lives. It will most likely do substantial economic damage that people will feel in a different way. I’m also more aware of how little I know. And how little anyone knows (aside from scientists and the medical community that we deeply need in this moment).
But I do know a few things that are applicable in crisis. Luckily, some of those things surfers and outdoor enthusiasts are uniquely well-positioned to embrace. Even as I field calls from concerned partners whose businesses and lives just changed radically in the last 48 hours, a few principles come to mind that inspire confidence. I’d like to share them.
A level head. Reason is the pinnacle of humanity. As Senior Editor Alex Haro pointed out, pandemics have a timeline. They are cyclical. This will get worse, and it will get better. By embracing practical measures to minimize unnecessary contact or travel, we can do our part to decelerate the rate of transmission. That’s not a trivial contribution. It’s good that the WSL canceled its first event. I’m sure their leadership will continue to analyze the most responsible course of action event by event. That’s all we can do. Assess risks and take rational action. Speaking anecdotally, big wave surfers equate panic with death. Frenzy serves no one.
A sense of humor. Laughter is medicine we make for ourselves. Like a party wave. All smiles. We’re in this thing together, so we can do ourselves a favor by havin’ a giggle with our buds.
Gratitude. At a base level, catching a wave in the ocean is such a simple, profoundly grounding experience. It’s all the cliched “isms” that make surf editors and super core dudes roll eyes the moment a pithy, transcendental sentence explaining surfing’s value begins. But, man, is surfing honest. From shameful moments like blowing a wave or getting caught inside to triumphs like a head dip or a committed turn, playing in the ocean is fun. It’s the sun, the saltwater, and big plans of enjoying all of it. Most people haven’t done it and never will. We do. Some of us often. For that, we’re very lucky.
Community. Give a stranger a wave. A smile. A parking lot shaka. Like any culture, the surf tribe is fractured. Longboarders, shortboarders, SUPers, hydrofoilers, ocean bicycle riders, locals, newbs, jocks, hipsters. But, really…actually, stop. Hard times don’t have time for that bullshit. Be a kind, compassionate person. Let’s look after each other – in the water, on land, in life, online. It all counts, and ocean and outdoor lovers share a common bond that we can lean on in moments of uncertainty.
Optimism. Growing up an East Coast surfer, I’m all too familiar with a flat spell. It’s that East Coast froth that’s consistently among the most earnest and appreciative I’ve found while meeting surfers from around the planet. The next wave will come. It may be flat for weeks or months, but a swell is somewhere on the horizon. Always and without fail. Be ready for it.
Move. We get to be active….not in a gym. Not breathing other humans’ sweat. Nope. In that freak of a gift called the ocean. Firing up those endorphins and creative energy in the sea is a great release in trying times. It’ll quickly put things into perspective while pulsing blood through the veins.
Right now, it’s still raining in Los Angeles. That’s fitting. Because of how the Los Angeles River interfaces with its four million residents, I probably won’t be swimming in the Corona-titis stew leaking from Barstow into the slant lineup at El Porto tomorrow morning. But the moment the ocean advisory expires and the sun comes out (which will happen), I can’t wait to paddle out and catch a wave. I hope you catch one soon, too.