“Can I get Coronavirus from a wave pool?” It’s not the water that puts you at risk

This was supposed to be the big year for surfing: Olympics, new wave pools, larger pool comps, even bigger wave pools, a Surf Ranch reality TV show (!?) and, well, who knows it still might very well be huge once this whole virus thing passes. We hope so.

As we enter the Covid-19 era a new normal is emerging, one that includes hoarding toilet paper, getting into punch-ups over public coughing and avoiding large groups at all costs. Heaps of mainstream events like NBA and MLB games are being postponed.

In our little corner of the world, the WSL axed the season opener at Snapper Rocks and are scrapping all the events for March. Surf Park Summit, the world’s biggest collective meeting of wave pool minds, has officially been postponed until October 1st and 2nd of this year.

“The Surf Park Summit team has been adamant that the Summit would go ahead unless COVID-19 factors beyond our control forced our hand,” said director Jess Ponting. “In light of President Trump’s European travel ban, the National State of Emergency, and bans on meetings in California at the state and city level we have been forced to postpone until October 1st and 2nd of this year. We hate having to do this, we are extremely sorry, and we realize that it is incredibly inconvenient for everyone concerned. All registrations will be transferred to the new Summit dates. We will work with anyone unable to attend in October to find a solution.”

No one can cough on you when you duck dive. Underwater might be the safest place at your favorite wave pool. Photo by Image Cabin

While most places and events disrupted by the pandemic will come back at a later date, some will not. The Stab High event is officially labeled a cancellation and not a postponement.

“Stab High Melbourne has been canceled,” Urbnsurf said in a statement. “We’ve heeded the Australian Government’s advice against major events of more than 500 people, so we’re 100% with Stab to err on the side of caution. We’re bummed, but the health, safety and wellbeing of our members and guests is our highest priority.”

Ticket holders and pay-per-view purchases for the Stab event will be refunded according to the statement. Urbnsurf did run their Pool Party event in conjunction with Surfing Victoria this week, an event that saw fewer than 100 people attend.

So are we safe to assume that unless you’re surfing with 100 of your closest friends at a surf park, you should be OK? While the world is learning to self-quarantine and practices social distancing, the perfect peelers at Waco, Melbourne and Bristol are still open and accessible to surfers.

Urbnsurf are reviewing their operations and policies regularly and at the time of this post there is no change to their usual business operations other than increased sanitation practices.

“For our members and guests, all surf sessions and surf lessons are running as normal, spectator passes are available, and all park amenities (including our Surf Academy, Surf Rental centre and Lagoon Supply Co) remain open.”

The spikey sphere that changed the world

Surf parks are re-iterating that Covid-19 isn’t spread to humans through the use of swimming pools and hot tubs. To combat the virus and ensure public safety, wave pools are putting in extra human resource hours wiping down high-touch areas with anti-bacterial solutions.

The Wave in Bristol stated they are closely following the outbreak and heeding the government’s advice and are taking extra precautionary steps including upping the frequency of cleaning all the guest spaces and posting hand sanitizer throughout the surf park.

“We take real care and pride in maintaining the highest standards of cleanliness and hygiene at The Wave and in response to Coronavirus, we’ve taken some extra steps to make our cleaning and hygiene even more rigorous,” said The Wave. “If anyone who is due to surf with us has been in contact with someone who has tested positive for Coronavirus, we would ask you to contact our Customer Service team and re-book your surf for a later date.”

Don’t hoard toilet paper. It doesn’t help anyone and makes you look stupid.

In America, BSR Surf Resort remains open and is following The Wave’s example. The Waco wave pool installed a state-of-the-art water filtration system two years ago after Fabrizio Stabile contracted a brain-eating amoeba known as Naegleria fowleri and died. BSR, like The Wave, is following a protocol of fastidious surface cleaning.

“Please know that the health of our guests and staff remains our top priority and we are taking several precautions in response to health authority recommendations by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) regarding COVID-19,” said BSR. “The CDC has stated that there is no evidence that COVID-19 can be spread to humans through the use of pools and hot tubs. Proper operation, maintenance, and disinfection, by means of chlorine and bromine, of pools and hot tubs should remove or inactivate the virus that causes COVID-19.”

According to the CDC, properly chlorinated pool water kills viruses. Wave pools are not swimming pools or hot tubs typically doused in large quantities of chlorine and bromine. They are new inventions with high-tech filtration systems that go beyond the archaic swimming pool classifications. But, do these new systems kill the Coronavirus?

Many surf parks offer better water quality than your local swimming pool. Wavegarden’s water purification process works largely by wave action, UV rays and a splash of chlorine.

“In addition to complying with bathing regulations, clean water is important to create an aesthetically pleasing facility,” says Wavegarden. “Our bespoke water treatment system is integrated into the surfing lagoon to deliver crystal clear and hygienically safe water. In terms of how it works, we can’t give away too much. Suffice it’s safe to say it provides a lightly chlorinated environment that will give water quality that’s equivalent to Melbourne drinking water.”

The UK Adaptive Surf Team pre-social distancing era. Photo by Image Cabin.

In a post-corona virus world, your favorite wave pool clubhouse will smell more like Clorox wipes than stoke. And, yes, that’s good. But the main thing to worry about is other surfers.

According to the Centres for Disease Control people spread viral particles through coughing and sneezing. The particles can land in the mouths or noses of those nearby, which is why it’s best to maintain “social distancing” of six feet. The CDC adds that some coronaviruses can stay on surfaces for a few hours or up to several days – this is why the surf parks are wiping everything down. Ethanol, hydrogen-peroxide or bleach-based cleaners are effective at killing the virus on surfaces. 

Of course, one of the safest places to be (other than home) during this pandemic is in the ocean or at the beach. An empty stretch of coastline with peeling gems, should you be so lucky to find it, will offer safe, fun, virus-free surfing.

Main image by Claudio Schwarz

BSR, The Wave and Urbnsurf are open for business during the pandemic. Photo by Rob Henson.

Advice from the CDC to avoid catching the virus

Clean your hands often

•   Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds especially after you have been in a public place, or after blowing your nose, coughing, or sneezing.

•   If soap and water are not readily available, use a hand sanitizer that contains at least 60% alcohol. Cover all surfaces of your hands and rub them together until they feel dry.

•   Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth with unwashed hands.

Avoid close contact

•   Avoid close contact with people who are sick

•   Put distance between yourself and other people if COVID-19 is spreading in your community. This is especially important for people who are at higher risk of getting very sick.

Take steps to protect others

Stay home if you’re sick

•   Stay home if you are sick, except to get medical care. Learn what to do if you are sick.

Cover coughs and sneezes

•   Cover your mouth and nose with a tissue when you cough or sneeze or use the inside of your elbow.

•   Throw used tissues in the trash.

•   Immediately wash your hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. If soap and water are not readily available, clean your hands with a hand sanitizer that contains at least 60% alcohol.

Wear a facemask if you are sick

•   If you are sick:  You should wear a facemask when you are around other people (e.g., sharing a room or vehicle) and before you enter a healthcare provider’s office. If you are not able to wear a facemask (for example, because it causes trouble breathing), then you should do your best to cover your coughs and sneezes, and people who are caring for you should wear a facemask if they enter your room. 

•   If you are NOT sick: You do not need to wear a facemask unless you are caring for someone who is sick (and they are not able to wear a facemask). Facemasks may be in short supply and they should be saved for caregivers.

Clean and disinfect

•   Clean AND disinfect frequently touched surfaces daily. This includes tables, doorknobs, light switches, countertops, handles, desks, phones, keyboards, toilets, faucets, and sinks.

•   If surfaces are dirty, clean them: Use detergent or soap and water prior to disinfection.