For weeks during the COVID-19 pandemic, I stared at my bathtub, wondering if I knew enough fluid dynamics to generate my own waves. If I built a small jetty down the center of the tub, directly under the spout, could I potentially make an ankle-high wave? Maybe with enough force, proper rock placement, and Ben Gravy-like determination, my dream bubble bath barrel could become a reality.
But I quickly gave up the idea of the Lemoore Surf Tub. There was insufficient shredding space. And the precious space that was available was already being fought over by the local rubber duckies. I was a kook ousted from my own bathroom.
For weeks, San Diego’s beaches were closed, leaving many surfers starved for waves. California’s shelter in place policy meant that we were all cooped up together devising various ways to fend off boredom. We were watching old surf films, balancing on Indo Boards, participating in Kook of the Day’s quarantine pitted challenge, and, yes, even staring at our bathtubs with ridiculous levels of optimism, hoping to scratch the itch to glide across the sea. If I was head of advertising at Rip Curl, I would have immediately greenlit a full-page web ad of multiple pros staring at their respective bathtubs with the iconic “The Search” logo scrawled across the top.
But while it was momentarily fun to manufacture blanket barrels and attempt to live through the surfing exploits of others on the intertubes, it never equated to the actual experience of surfing. It only made the ocean’s pull stronger.
If you were to succumb to your surf desires, it came at a steep price: a $1,000 fine and up to six months in jail. Throw in the fact that you could also be spreading a deadly disease, and it was enough to persuade almost everyone to stay home, except the one percent that had FU boat money.
But then, in late April, San Diego mayor Kevin Faulconer made an announcement: on April 27, at sunrise, surfing would again be permitted in America’s Finest City. This prompted a collective “Yeeeeeewwwwww!” from most residents.
Excited to leave my couch to finally do some real surfing, I arrived at my local spot at daybreak on the 27th. Maybe I would get to witness the mayor cut a red ribbon with a comically large pair of scissors to officially reopen the ocean. Instead, I watched in horror as the city’s combination of boredom and pent-up surf desires caused a bro-cano to erupt, spewing every surfer within 50 miles out into the Pacific.
Where the hell did all of these people come from? A serious crowd was to be expected, but this was the biggest clusterfuck I’d seen since the Coronavirus outbreak began. There were pros, bros, cotton-eyed joes, aggro locals, slack-jawed yokels, longboards, shortboards, paddle boards, knee boards, boogie boards, multiple guys named Chet, and every Wavestorm the County of San Diego could muster, all battling for the same waves.
Adding to the chaos was the red tide – an algae bloom that produces gorgeous bioluminescent light shows in the evenings, but makes the water look bloodied and murky during the day. While that sounds disgusting, the red tide poses little threat to humans (unless you eat red tide-infected shellfish – don’t do that). Compared to the more worrisome Coronavirus, a little itching and discomfort were going to do little to deter anyone from surfing.
Amid the horror show in the water was an awesome silver lining: we could surf again. We as a city took another step towards being healthy and functional without the fear that we might succumb to an invisible virus. It was a welcomed normal activity in a time when humans swimming in murky, bloodied water seems like an appropriate metaphor for the entire year.
It was a day filled with frustrating crowds, rusty maneuvers, and overcoming the pain of muscle groups that haven’t been used since March. But hey, my bathtub has been flat for weeks. I took what I could get.