Two surfers were arrested on Tuesday after staging a peaceful protest at Surfer’s Corner, in Muizenberg, calling for the government to open the beaches and oceans.
And another 30 surfers narrowly escaped hefty fines when they answered the call of the waves on Friday May 1, the first day South Africans were allowed to leave their homes, from 6am to 9am, since the relaxed Level 4 lockdown came into effect.
On Tuesday morning, far south surfers gathered at various beaches to call for the reopening of the beaches. However, the protests did not go according to plan.
In a Facebook post, Gabriel le Roux described joining the protest at Surfer’s Corner as “completely nerve-racking”.
“The police were intimidating us to the point of shakes,” he said.
Kristina Sjojiljkovic said the police and soldiers with rifles had been patrolling Longbeach in Kommetjie and she had not made it onto the sand.
Muizenberg police spokesman, Captain Stephen Knapp, said two surfers, aged 52 and 65, were arrested on charges of contravening the National Disaster’s Risk Management Act at Surfer’s Corner.
Last month, two surfers were fined R5 000 each in Jeffreys Bay for similar transgressions.
Ocean View police spokesman, Sergeant Leon Fortuin, said the two men who had been in the water on Friday had not been fined as they had refused to get out of the water when confronted by police and law enforcement officers.
Surfers have been pleading with the authorities since last month to allow them back in the water.
A petition on Change.org started by David Visagie calls for Western Cape waters and South African coastlines to reopen for swimming, surfing and fishing.
The petition is addressed to President Cyril Ramaphosa and Western Cape Premier Alan Winde.
Surfing, for most surfers, Mr Visagie said, was more than just a hobby.
“Surfing is a time for us to be alone with our thoughts, away from the struggles of everyday life, away from stress, anxiety, depression, and, most importantly at this moment in time, people,” he said.
The petition was signed by more than 9000 people, but the authorities have not budged and made it clear that surfing was not allowed under the level 4 restrictions.
Wearing a mask in public is now compulsory, but many of those who took advantage of the 6am to 9am window to go outside on the first day of the eased restrictions last Friday neglected to wear one and ignored physical distancing requirements.
No one in the area was arrested or fined, according to Fish Hoek police spokesman Warrant Officer Peter Middelton, who noted that the rules appeared to have gone out the window as people confined to their homes for more than a month made a dash for the door.
He said residents also had to realise that the beaches were off limits and walking on the beach was not permitted.
SANParks spokesman Rey Thakhuli confirmed that Cape Town beaches, public parks, and nature reserves remained off limits.
The short window for exercise raised several concerns on Facebook with some saying it was a bad idea as it had created large gatherings.
Fish Hoek resident Charles Dagnall said the 6am to 9am slot had not been given enough thought as the approaching darkness of winter would curtail the allotted time. A time slot in the morning and another in the afternoon would work better, he said.
“Most people want to adhere to social distancing and are intelligent enough to obey instructions and avoid crowded areas. The authorities are inclined to treat us like naughty children who are just waiting to disobey. Give us a chance to show we are adult enough to do the right thing,” he said.
He said authorities should consider reopening beaches as Fish Hoek Beach was the perfect place for a walk.
“It’s a great long and wide beach and is the perfect place for people to walk undisturbed and apart.”