Like all Italians, Roberto D'Amico has been in a COVID 19 lock down for over a week. The gentle giant from just outside Rome is a mainstay on the European QS tour, but recently hasn't been able to leave his house, let alone surf. He's used the downtime however to put together a clip of the waves he scored before the devastating virus hit Italy and started a campaign called #Stayathome.
We caught up with Robby to discuss the last few weeks, what it's like to be in lockdown and to hear his powerful message on how other surfers can hopefully avoid what he has been through.
Hi Robby, first up, where are you right now?
I'm at home. I live Ladispoli, a small coastal town about 20 miles from the centre of Rome.
How have the last few weeks been?
Well, the first part of the flu arrived in the north in Milan, which became a red, or locked down, zone. However even then my friends and I were all pretty chilled. We thought the media was exaggerating and so I was leading my normal life. I was going on the train, going to the pubs, surfing, but it all changed so fast.
How fast was it?
Well, in one day the infections went from 2000 to 10,000 people and the whole of Italy was placed in a lockdown. The hospitals couldn't cope, there wasn't enough beds. The doctors were forced to take the patients that had a better chance of survival. All the other normal medical departments were shut down to focus on the Corona cases. It was so desperate.
And what does the lockdown mean for you personally?
With the lockdown we can only leave the house for necessities like food or medicine, but only one person per household can do those tasks. We weren't even allowed to see our parents, the only people you could see was the people you live with. Currently this is the situation until the 25th March, but it could go on longer.
So no surfing I take it?
I live 100 metres from the sea and of course I want to go swimming and surfing, but I can't even go for a walk. There is financial penalties and even jail terms for breaking the isolation rules. Right now we just have to forget about surfing, or whatever your passion is and think about being healthy. We have to do what ever it takes to get back to our normal way of life. The waves will always be there.
You must be going a little stir crazy?
Of course. I'm a surfer and if I don't surf I go mad. But traveling, even to go surfing, will spread the infection. We need to stay at home, keep the mind busy and the body active. It's a tough time and it's all so new, and really hard position with our jobs, but I will say Italy is showing the love for each other. We are helping each other every way we can, donating our time and money to help the hospitals and we are respecting the rules to try and make this horrible experience pass as quickly as possible.
What lessons have your learned from the experience?
Our problem was that we didn't take the necessary precautions at the start and I fear other countries and people are making the same mistake. Don't relax, don't shake hands, listen to the government advice. Us surfers and young people will be fine, but the elderly and the sick can't fight it. They are dying. We have already 2000 deaths, so this is real and other countries can avoid such a loss.
Yet the clip you dropped showed just how good the waves were in Italy not so long ago?
Yes, the winter was incredible. The waves in the movie were all shot on the Italian mainland. The footage was supposed to be part of a much bigger project, but I've decided to try and use the waves to get people's attention. I want to help all surfers avoid the situation we are in.