Covid as a Surfer

Stab asked me to write a short piece on what it has been like to go through this "covid year" as a professional surfer for their new "Stab Premium"... It' behind a paywall, but it's only 75 dollars for the year and the are producing some cool content... It's HERE if you want to check out Stab premium. 

I wrote this from our hotel room last week during our two week quarantine that was required to enter Australia. After a whole year off of the tour, I'm fired up to get it going again next week!A year ago to the day of writing this, I was supposed to be flying to Australia with my girlfriend to compete in the first leg of the 2020 tour. 

For the four prior years, I'd gone to the exact same place at the same exact time. The Oz leg of Tour has provided countless memories and good times since my rookie year. I was sitting at home a few days before my flight and read about Tom Hanks and his wife testing positive for Covid whilst hanging out on the beach at the Gold Coast. I remember thinking “Shit, there goes the Corona Open…” 

Sure enough, a few days later the NBA, NFL, and MLB were all shut down. Suffice to say, surf competitions were not far behind them. At that point, the WSL was still hopeful that we would be able to get the tour up and running a month or two later. 


Then, within a matter of days, the whole world shut down. 

Every grocery store ran out of toilet paper. The stock market crashed. People were out of work. The streets of LA went empty and America—and the whole world for that matter—seemed semi-apocalyptic. 

I'm typically an optimist, but I felt nervous. I wasn’t all that worried about getting Covid, more so about the situation at hand and the amount of uncertainty that so many people were facing. Covid's ramifications on the world as we knew it weren’t exactly uplifting. 

How long would people be out of work? How deadly would Covid be? Would the global economy shatter? Closer to home, would a surf industry that was already on a downward trajectory spiral into oblivion? Would contracts be torn up? The dream over? There were plenty of questions that went unanswered for a long time. And, a year later, we're still dealing with Covid and its repercussions. 


With the WSL hoping to start the tour later in the year, the beginning of Covid was a bit of a limbo for me—between “staying at home” and trying to get ready to kick off another year on tour. To be honest, I was selfishly relieved by the prospect of an extra month or two at home. I had been battling a nagging back injury that spawned from a hip injury whilst competing in Bali the prior year. Despite body work, saunas, daily exercises, and acupuncture, there were still days that I woke up and struggled to get my pants on. 


As cases skyrocketed around the globe and hospitals became overwhelmed, putting our healthcare and first responders on the front lines, it quickly became evident that Covid was unfortunately here to stay. On one hand, a part of the population was “staying at home” while another part was working double time trying to keep groceries moving and people healthy. 

Although a 2020 WSL tour sounded good on paper, it also felt like it would be ignorant to trot around a Covid globe in hopes of running heats whilst health care workers put their lives on the line and fatalities mounted. So, I felt like the decision the WSL made was the only one.  


For the 10 years leading up to Covid, I had spent 6-10 months of each year traveling. It was an incredible time. Back when the surf Industry was booming and magazines existed (remember those?), the best thing ever was packing up for 2 or 3 weeks to go on a trip for Surfing Mag or a sponsor trip to shoot the next marketing campaign. That, coupled with chasing early QS points, led to racking up 100k plus frequent flier miles annually. But when I qualified for the World Tour, my travel schedule changed. It was less ping ponging around the globe, and more more long legs for longer event periods. Social media started its assault on global media, surf mags were dying, sponsors didn’t have the same marketing budgets, and contests became the center of my “surf world.” 


After 4 years on tour and just scraping by in 2019 to re-qualify for 2020, I was feeling pretty run down. My love for surfing hadn’t faded at all, but the competitive flame was flickering. I had been surfing most of the year feeling pretty shitty physically and by the end of the year, I felt drained from working so hard to keep my spot on tour. The first event of 2020 felt like it was flying at me full speed. I had a board bag of Channel Islands and a board bag of JS’s packed, not knowing whose boards I was going to ride that year. I had back pain that severely impacted my surfing and I wasn’t feeling super prepared for another year on tour. Yes, first-world problems, but when trying to compete with the best in the world, they are meaningful. 

Covid kind of changed everything. 


As it replaced offices with zoom meetings and retail with online shopping, my life followed suit. I went from living out of a suitcase and bouncing around the globe to being planted at home for longer than I had been in a decade. I went from feeling overwhelmed to start a new season to feeling relaxed and having time to work on myself mentally and physically. I went from being in a relationship to having my girl and her dog living with me—and adopting two cats. I went from feeling short on time to having “stay at home orders” allowing me the time to work on house projects, play guitar, grow my own food, and spend afternoons cooking fun meals. I got to put time towards new ventures like helping to reboot a brand in Leus. 

Surfing felt free, creative, and joyful without having to focus on prepping for an event. Suddenly, I got to spend weeks in a row with my family and girlfriend and I cherished every moment of it. It gave me time to finally slow down and reflect on what has already been a career I only could have dreamed of as a kid. And it gave me a new perspective—I felt like if it was all over tomorrow, it had been a great ride. It gave me time to drive across the country for the first time and not give a shit if I didn’t see a wave for 7 days. Although Covid had its intricacies and made it challenging to see friends and family, it also provided a time to sift through the bullshit and connect with the things and people that are most important.


I feel SO grateful to have been in an incredibly fortunate position to weather a storm like Covid that has been so terrible for so many people. 

For a few months, the surf industry was devastated and employees were furloughed as was much of the world's workers. For a little while, it seemed like it could lead to having to find a new career path sooner than expected. For some reason, that wasn’t as scary as I thought it may have been. I’ve always been interested in so many areas of life and I’m confident that I can apply my passion and work ethic to something fulfilling when that time comes. 

Fortunately, surfing became something that people gravitated to during Covid and a dying industry seems to have been given a breath of fresh air with people falling in love or re-falling in love with the art of riding waves. 

Similarly, this year has given me a chance to feel rejuvenated and fired up to start another year on tour doing what I love with the hope of inspiring others to follow their passions. 


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