Despite a few vague rumblings over a couple of months, which were pretty easy to ignore, when the Covid pandemic hit properly, it hit brutally hard. On short notice, the Australian borders were slammed shut, leaving thousands of Aussies stranded overseas and/or then having to quarantine at their own expense for 2 weeks upon arriving home.
Through sheer good luck, I arrived home from Fiji about 6 hours before the Australian border closure and quarantine measures came into force. When checking the Covid statistics in the Nadi departure lounge that afternoon, there were about 135,000 Covid cases - WORLDWIDE! Some 19 months later, the pandemic has seen nearly 238 million Covid cases and almost 5 million deaths on our planet.
Once home and with access to more Covid news, it quickly became apparent that surf trips to exotic locations with dream waves were off limits – and who knew for how long. We contacted our database and noted that it seemed unfair to be regularly sending communiques with magnificent imagery of places & waves that were now totally inaccessible.
Then, like many, many businesses, we ceased most of our regular work habits. We washed our hands, sat on the couch at home and watched the utter train wreck unfold. We have all suffered lockdown after lockdown, disruption after disruption - some much more than others. We have seen totally illogical protests from a miniscule minority who have somehow managed to delude themselves that Covid is a conspiracy or hoax. Madness personified!
This sort of lunacy hits us particularly hard, as Covid has dealt a very direct hit to the wider World Surfaris’ family. We were shocked and saddened when the Founder and Patron of the Tupira Surf Club in Madang Province, PNG – Justice Nicholas Kirriwom – caught Covid in March 2021 and sadly passed away from the disease the next month. He was just 66 years of age, with no underlying co-morbidity factors. We again extend our condolences to the Kirriwom Family and the Tupira Surf Club.
The plight of the operators of many of our fabulous wave destinations around the world has been a constant worry for us throughout the pandemic. We hope that the Australian government will join with other first world governments to ensure that vaccine equity is experienced by all. Places like PNG, Indo and the Maldives rely on international tourism for a major portion of their national income. It was the Canadian media theorist, the late Marshall McLuhan, who coined the term “the global village” in 1964. He used it to describe how the increased presence and effectiveness of mass communication technology was transforming our world. Little did he realise that the Covid pandemic would demonstrate just how inter-connected we have truly become.
Within the confines of the local area of our global village, a few months ago, a 62 year-old friend of mine in good physical health took his own life. I originally met him in his capacity as my dentist but he had become my friend. I had seen him a few months before this tragic event. He had been so kind to me, knew that my business had been decimated, only charged me a small percentage of the usual fees for my check-up – now he is gone. We will never know what truly goes on in a suicidal mind. Was it Covid related? What else could appear to be so threatening that ceasing to exist was the only answer? I will never have the chance to repay Tony for his kindness and his friendship.
The pandemic has dealt a heavy blow to many of us in different ways. Personally, I now have more financial scars that I probably wanted. But with the support of a lot of the businesses we have dealt with over decades, including our Bank, we have weathered the storm. Yes, we have been through some very dark days but we never lost faith in the future – we just weren’t sure when it would turn up.
Against the extreme backdrop that Covid has become, there have been much happier moments for the World Surfaris business and myself since life irrevocably changed. We successfully ran the Byron Bay Surf Festival over a long weekend in late February 2021. There were blue skies, sunny days and Wategos Beach produced excellent contestable surf throughout the Festival.
We were fortunate in being able to move the Noosa Festival of Surfing from the usual timeslot of February/March to mid-May in 2021. It was the Festival’s 30th anniversary and as hindsight will show, the timing was just right. The Festival was staged between what turned out to be extended periods of lockdown gloom. The complete absence of international competitors and their families was noticeable but the celebration of the joy of surfing that the Noosa Festival embodies was clearly evident. In 2022, the Noosa Festival moves back to its usual March timeframe (5-13 March 2022).
On the personal front, I have had 2 granddaughters added to my extended family. Amelia Mae was born just before Christmas 2020. Then in mid-June 2021, Grace Helen blessed us with her arrival. Everyone is well and coping as best they can. I hope it’s the same with you and your family.
As at the time of writing, the conditions and timing associated with the re-opening of the Australian borders are under hot debate within government circles. A few details are being leaked and we are optimistic that it will be sooner rather than later – we hope so for everyone’s sanity.
Were you aware that the Maldives has been open for surf and general tourism since July 2020? With a significant degree of envy, we note that 2021 has seen an increasing number of Americans, Europeans and Russians enjoying the uncrowded, pristine waves throughout the Maldives. Where do you dream of surfing when we can finally travel again?
We thank you for your patience and continued support till the new travel normal is established. We believe it is not too far away. While we wait, please do your part to get ready to surf travel again. Stay fit, get vaccinated, remain positive. See you soon.
Director, World Surfaris.