Professional surfers and open water swimmers in Durban are elated by the recent amendment allowing them to resume activities during Level 3 of the nationwide lockdown.

Over the past two months, KwaZulu-Natal had the perfect waves for surfing. But, professionals couldn’t practice, due to lockdown regulations.

A surfer’s paradise – the ocean along Durban’s coastline has some of the best waves for surfing in the country. Government officials say there have been lengthy engagements about allowing surfing and swimming for the public at the amateur level. Eventually, a decision was taken to only allow professional athletes earning a living from their sport to get back to training.

Minister of Sport, Arts and Culture, Nathi Mthethwa, says all professional athletes who participate in contact and non-contact sport can start training from Monday. All professional non-contact sport can also resume under Level 3 of the nationwide lockdown, however without spectators, the Minister confirmed.

Minister Nathi Mthethwa briefs the media on the regulations under which non-contact sports may resume:

Within the next two weeks, sport managers will have to submit a detailed plan of activities in writing to the department, also giving the assurance that athletes and technical staff will be tested for COVID-19 prior to the resumption of activity.

Addressing the media on Saturday in Pretoria Mthethwa says all hygiene and social distancing protocols must be adhered to.

“Non-contact sport and training for professional athletes may resume in compliance with the health protocol without any spectators. All sport bodies must within 14 days inform the Minister in writing as to the date of resumption and further provide an operational guideline including a guarantee in the of affidavits related to the testing of all officials before resumption for training and matches,” he explains.

Athletes have welcomed the move.  Sarah Ferguson, a pro-open-water swimmer, says it might be challenging to draw the line between professional and recreational athletes.

“I think it’s going to be challenging to try and draw the line between the professional athletes and recreational athletes. I’m not sure how they are going to do that, but I think it is wonderful news.”

Ferguson says the lockdown has had a severe impact on the sport. “One of the biggest tournaments in the country, the Balliti Pro, which was supposed to happen in July, was been postponed; which is a big loss and that’s understandable considering the circumstances.”

Authorities say strict measures will have to be adhered to for athletes and support staff including hygiene and screening protocols for COVID-19.