UK surfers are braced for a significant swell this weekend. However with none of the usual lifeguard cover in place due to Covid-19 restrictions, the anticipation is mixed with a sense of foreboding.
Last week the UK's Prime Minister Boris Johnson loosened restrictions on lockdown measures. Unlimited exercise, including surfing, was permitted and all restrictions on travel were lifted. With large spring tides and a solid swell predicted to hit the south-west of the country on Friday, courtesy of a deep, fast moving low in the Atlantic, some of the UK's coast most protected spots could turn on.
However the normal lifeguard service, run in the UK by the Royal National Lifeboat Institution (RLNI), was paused at the end of March due to the measures put in place by the government to control the spread of coronavirus. The RNLI has said it will only be covering 30% of the beaches in the UK.
That could lead to a potentially dangerous mix of large swell and unpatrolled beaches. Carve surf magazine have asked beginners not to surf, intermediate surfers to not surf alone and for experienced surfers to offer safety advice where needed.
North Devon-based big-wave surfer Andrew Cotton, himself a former lifeguard, neatly falls into that last category. "We'll have to use our common sense," Cotton told the WSL. "The lifeguards rarely assist the surfers and all the holiday parks are all shut down which will help. But hopefully everyone will keep an eye out for each other."