Nick Carroll: We Asked a Scientist, Is Surfing Safe From COVID-19?

28 Mar 2020 14 Share

Nick Carroll

Senior Writer

Photo from the CW User Photo Gallery uploaded by dukekai

Photo from the CW User Photo Gallery uploaded by dukekai

COASTALWATCH | NICK CARROLL

THE PLAGUE DESCENDS – An Ongoing Series on How the Pandemic Affects Our Coastal Surfing Lives

We don’t have any idea, yet.

We all know surfing is good for us. Especially now. The stress relief, the open air, the ocean.

But what of the risk? When it comes to the COVID-19 virus’s transmission during the act of surfing, we’ve just been guessing.

The virus transmits itself through water droplets — minute quantities of sweat and aerosolised saliva carrying the virus, wafting through the air, landing on surfaces, landing on your face. It rarely lives long, unless it gets into a host.

Can it survive all that sun and salt water, the stuff we love so much? Many of us have been assuming so, or acting like we do.

CW researched this for a while ourselves, without much luck at all. Finally we asked Dr Karl Kruszelnicki, Australia’s very own popular scientist, who is across all manner of medical and general scientific research.

Karl told us: “The straight answer is, we don’t know.”

“Option one: The virus is killed quickly by salt water. Option two: The virus loves salt water and will multiply and jump around from host to host. We don’t know which is true. We just don’t have that information.

“Maybe sunlight kills it rapidly, maybe it doesn’t. We don’t know that yet either. We will know, we will have that information, but we’re not there yet.”

He says the virus is still too young for that kind of research to have been done yet. “It’s only a few months old. We know bits and pieces. We know that women in late pregnancy do quite well with it, for instance. But how do women in early pregnancy do? We don’t know. We don’t have a clue.”

Karl is pretty cut up about the Federal Government’s lack of funding for pure research into the virus. Right now, he says, not an extra cent of the many billions being poured into the War Against COVID has been directed to scientific research into it. “If we put $1 billion into the research we could have all those answers.”*

So where does that leave surfers? Just with what we already knew: keep a social distance, stay out of close groups, get checked and self isolate if you begin to show symptoms, look after the hygiene, and look after yourself.

About which Karl had the clearest tips imaginable:

“The best thing you can do for yourself is be healthy. Get the exercise. And as Frank Zappa said: You can never have too much fruit and vegetables.”

(*Not that we’re doing nothing. A University of Queensland research group, for instance, has been doing great work on how to lock up a thing called a spike protein, which can change shape to allow the virus to make its way into a host cell. The UQ researchers seems to have found a way to stop the protein from changing shape — which would stop the virus from getting in the door.

The research isn’t funded by Australia, but by Norway, via its sovereign wealth fund. The one built up by taxes levied on Norway’s oil production — which is funded partly by Equinor, the same corpo that just bailed on the Bight.

Weird turn about, that one.)

More Coastalwatch COVID-19 Coverage


24 MAR 2020
Nick Carroll: WTF, Closed Beaches?

THE PLAGUE DESCENDS – An Ongoing Series on How the Pandemic Affects Our Coastal Surfing Lives 


19 MAR 2020
How Surfers Around the World Are Doing Amid COVID-19

What’s it like right now being a surfer in Spain, Bali, The Ments?


17 MAR 2020
– Bells Is Off For Easter! WSL Shuts Down the Tour Until at Least June 2020

CTs, QSs either cancelled or postponed…


13 MAR 2020
Nick Carroll: The World's Ending

Don't worry though, someone's gonna score.


13 MAR 2020
– Breaking: The WSL Has Cancelled All Events in March, including the First Leg of the Championship Tour

The Corona Pro Gold Coast is a No


12 MAR 2020
Nick Carroll: How the Surfing World’s Responding to COVID-19

“Nobody knows what’s down the track with this.”



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