Surfers and sea lovers have pleaded with the government to be allowed to return to the ocean waves.
But disappointment may be looming for those longing for a return to their aquamarine paradise, if early signs are anything to go by.
The government is expected to on Thursday decree what kinds of exercise and personal movement will be permitted under Level 4 of the new “risk-adjusted” form of the lockdown. At present, President Cyril Ramaphosa’s only commitment has been to allow exercise “under strict health conditions”.
There are hints that limited good news could be coming the way of joggers, walkers and cyclists, but the wheres, hows and restrictions will only be fleshed out once those Level 4 rules are gazetted this week.
News24 has received the strongest sign yet that ocean water sports will still be banned under Level 4.
Canoeing South Africa (CSA), one of the organisations which submitted formal permission to exercise their chosen sport from 1 May, on Tuesday received the disappointing news: “Unfortunately, this request is denied.”
The paddling team received the message from the South African Maritime Safety Authority. The message to CSA read: “While Level 4 is implemented, we cannot allow this. Gyms are closed and, although exercise is limited, the request from government is to limit this as much as possible – only walking, jogging and cycling is permitted within the surrounding area of your home.”
This would represent the same rules as many other countries – including the UK and France – which restrict open exercise to 1-2km from home.
In a letter to members, CSA speculated that the government would possibly mimic the regulations in New Zealand, which specified under their Level 4 equivalent: “All water-based activities are prohibited because these activities expose participants to danger or may require search and rescue services.”
CSA reported: “We are trying to counter this argument with the fact that all of our members have recorded proficiency level and the risk is low.
“So, in the short term, it appears that those lucky enough to have ‘ergos’ (a form of rowing machine), or those who have swimming pool contraptions, will be the only ones who will be able to do any form of paddling.”
A number of water lovers united, earlier this week, to submit urgent proposals to the government around the specifics under Level 4.
Cape Town surf advocate and personality, Deon Bing, submitted a similar proposal, pleading the case for surfing: “It is a healthy and inexpensive activity, promoting fitness, physical and mental well-being, accessible to all.”
Bing added: “Various social projects use the ocean as part of their life skills programmes.
“These programmes include the 9 Miles Project, Waves For Change and Surfers Not Street Children.”
Steve Pike, the owner of WavesCape surf forecasting agency, also made a submission. It included keeping beaches closed to gatherings, and limited access to solo exercise in the ocean.
Pike’s suggested ocean activities were to allow paddling, sailing, subsistence fishing, diving and surfing.
“The above activities are solo pursuits, so this is easy to implement, requiring no policing,” Pike argued.
The windsurfing and kiteboarding fraternities have also pleaded their case, arguing “these are strictly individual sports”.
“Each participant has his or her own equipment and, given the size of the equipment and the manner in which it is used, requires a significant distance from any other participants.”
The two sports’ representatives argued their pastime was permitted in many countries around the world – including Australia and Germany.
“We appreciate that there are very many challenges facing the government at this time and, in the context of social upheavals, hunger and medical challenges, our inability to practice the sports we love is a minor problem,” the authors concluded.