NOT ALLOWED: This keen surfer was captured earlier this week surfing at West End. Activities in the water are not allowed. Photo Troy Baker D9786-19

ON Saturday, a line in the sand was drawn by the Government reinforcing that no swimming or surfing, among other recreational activities, is allowed during the lockdown.

This new announcement and the clarification of do’s and don’ts has sparked upset in the Eastern Bay’s beach communities.

An Ohope resident, who did not want to be named, said swimming was no more dangerous than riding a bike, going to the supermarket or doing DIY projects at home.

“I understand the big picture, but I don’t understand why we can’t swim.

“There’s a lot of mixed messaging going on; it seems like everybody we talk to has a different understanding.

“Why can’t we do it? it’s literally our front yard. Going to the supermarket where there could be hundreds of people or the Four Square where there’s multiple people is more of a risk than going for a swim,” she said.

Director of Health Dr Ashley Bloomfield said these decisions had been made to ensure the safety of every person.

“Exercise is to be done in an outdoor place that can be readily accessed from home and two-metre physical distancing must be maintained.

“Recreation and exercise does not involve swimming, water-based activities (for example, surfing or boating), hunting, tramping, or other activities of a kind that expose participants to danger or may require search and rescue services,” the new clarified guidelines state.

The residents said although their family were complying with the new guidelines, and understood the justification for restricting such activities, it might take a toll on them mentally.

“A good friend of mine asked if we were going swimming and I said ‘no’. She replied with a sad face. Going swimming is part of her daily ritual and helps with her mental health.

“We’re having to not do things that we do normally, there would be more accidents at a swimming pool in someone’s backyard than there would be at the beach.

“It’s just ridiculous because we aren’t even allowed to go out into our own front yard … It’s just really silly,” they said.

Oliver Dobbin, owner of Salt Spray Surf School, told the Beacon he understood why residents so close to the water were feeling hurt or confused at this time, but the Government’s decision was a responsible one.

“Ohope is a real beach community, so for them it must feel different or unfair.

“I’ve been down about not being able to go for a surf, but I’ve been talking with other surfers in the community and they’re starting to take it seriously. I think the consensus is that it’s a good call,” Mr Dobbin said.

For many Eastern Bay people, going for swims or surfing is a way of life, and Mr Dobbin said it would take a toll.

“Surfing for us is everything, it’s our calming place and there’s something about surfing that’s addictive.

“It must be hard for the people living on the beach, they’re used to just looking out at the waves and heading down for a surf, it’s just their thing, and it’s addictive, your life revolves around it.

“A lot of surfers see it as a mental health escape and that’s important,” Mr Dobbin said.

However, at the end of the day, those upset by the restrictions still understand it comes down to safety.

“We understand that the reason they made the call was if something did go wrong, search and rescue would need to be called and that involvement doesn’t make sense,” Mr Dobbin said.

Senior Sergeant Al Fenwick said these guidelines had been put in place to ensure people remained in their bubble, reducing any prospect of bursting it.

hazel.osborne@thebeacon.co.nz