SURFING SOARS DURING PANDEMIC

By Georgina Barnes

Living on an idyllic island like Jersey, it’s not hard to see why surfing is such a popular
sport for locals. Tourists are encapsulated by the long stretch of beaches and the water
sports we have to offer.

Any time the sun comes out, it’s almost inevitable the beaches of Jersey will be brimming
with families and friends. Young groms (surfers below the age of 16) pace their way down
to the sea with their strap already attached to their ankle, eager to catch some waves
along the five mile stretch in St Ouen’s.


When Jersey went into lockdown on March 30th, islanders were only allowed to leave their
homes for essential shopping, exercise, or for essential workers travelling to and from
work.


As the weather started improving and the sea warming up, many took to the ocean for
their two hours of exercise a day.

Credit: Dave Ferguson

President of The Channel Islands Surfing Federation (CISF) Dave Ferguson says the rise
of new surfers has been a difficult one to manage for safety reasons.


“The main concern for the Surfing Federation is the members are all the clubs of the
island, so basically for us at the beginning of lockdown going through all the tiers to level 1
we were behind the scenes managing surfing because people were allowed to go to the
beach.


“As far as the beach goes, we thought within ourselves that the best way to manage that
when getting a big influx of people was to manage it ourselves with help from all the
emergency services working officially were Jersey coastguards, off duty RNLI lifeguards,
the States and Honorary police and the harbour ports of Jersey.

“The multiagency approach obviously for regular surfers we were suddenly inundated with
a further 60% of beach users who were not regular surfers, so we had a massive on the
beach from end of March all the way through to August roughly.”


Ferguson says they saw a “massive increase” in surfing, with everyone heading to the surf
shops to cop a soft board or stand up paddle board. However, unexperienced surfers were
buying boards that were far against their level.


“People were getting into trouble as they didn’t know how to use the stuff properly, getting
blown out to sea for example. People buying second hand surfboards not knowing how to
use it, then getting stuck either through rip currents and instances of non regular surfers
hitting others with their boards and not knowing the ins and outs of surfing.”

With a busy period managing covid complications, ‘Fergie’ says this hasn’t stopped the
training of young groms eager to compete in the future.

Credit: Dave Ferguson

“We are continuing for our junior surfers to be coached which we’re allowed to do, we are
training up all junior coaches and getting to a standard where while nobodies travelling just
getting their levels and qualifications higher, our intentions are to feed surfers and trainers
into the British team, we want to add to the bigger picture of surfing in the UK.


“Nothing’s going down the pan, but as we can’t travel and I’m not prepared to risk anyone
going out of this island for a competition.”


For the first time ever, the CISF will benefit from the Olympic funding from the UK
Government’s elite sports agency, after adding surfing to their list of Olympic sports.
British Surfing is an organisation recognised by the British Olympic Association and the
International Surfing Association. It was formed specifically to develop elite performances,
selection, preparation and management of a British surfers who aspire to competing in the
Olympic Games.


Aaron Rowe is a familiar face to Jersey surfers for being one of the best English stand up
paddle boarders (SUP) in the waves and the race. He is a two time British Surf SUP
Champion and has represented Britain twice at world championship events.
Having suffered from a shoulder injury during the pandemic, Aaron says it’s been great
timing for a recovery.

Although his injury has prevented most physical activity, training has still been at the
forefront of his mind.


“I train with the Jersey Sports Foundation, working closely with my coach Greg Banner and
I get out in the water as much as I can, its tailored to what I can and can’t do, but I’ve got a
good team around me.”


When asked about the Olympic potential, Aaron had questions himself:
“I need to look into the funding as I don’t know if it will cover paddle boarding as of yet, it
will definitely be a question I’ll be asking.”


With the rise in new surfers, the seas have been packed with eager islanders:
“I’m not gonna lie, I’ve driven to the beach and driven home a couple of times as it’s been
too busy. It’s good for people during these hard times, people have to keep active and let
them carry on. It’s a pandemic, you can’t get angry at people for picking up a new sport.”


With surfing in Jersey on the increase, there can only be a positive outlook on what the
future has to hold for our little island.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s