To the point where just paddling out for a couple of waves became an illegal act in some places, never has the sport, culture and lifestyle of surfing faced anything like what we've been experiencing over the last several months. These aren't normal times and it seems like lately, nothing comes easy.
International travel has come to a standstill. There is no chasing swells or World Title points. Over the course of the 40-plus-year history of World Tour surfing, we certainly find ourselves in unprecedented times. And while we're a long way from normal -- whatever that even means now -- for the first time this year, some of the world's best surfers will be pulling on a jersey.
Competitive surfing is back ... sort of. Things are going to look a little different. But like every sports league around the planet, the question of how do we move forward has loomed like a large set on the horizon. In the case of professional surfing, the solution can be found in innovation and creativity.
The WSL Michelob ULTRA Pure Gold Rumble at the Ranch will feature 16 surfers. Among the athletes confirmed so far is four-time World champion Carissa Moore, and eleven-time World Champion Kelly Slater. Future Olympians Caroline Marks and Kolohe Andino are also in, as is Brasil's Filipe Toledo and last year's U.S. Open champ, Sage Erickson.
And because this is a new era we're living in, there will be a new format. One male and one female will be paired up together in a "mixed doubles" style competition.
Set to run on August 9 at the Surf Ranch in Lemoore, the action will hopefully give surf fans around the world not only something to watch, but that all-important glimmer of hope. Hope that there are sunnier days to come.
Beyond professional surfing, other sports organizations are having to figure out how to navigate these uncharted waters. UFC have run matches, sans fans, on what they've dubbed "Fight Island."
The 2019/20 NBA season restarts this week. Teams will be locked down at Disney World in Orlando, Florida. And like UFC, there won't be any fans in the stands.
Major League Baseball has kicked off their 2020 season with some seriously mixed results. Less than a week into the season and 15 members of the Miami Marlins organization, 12 players and two coaches, have tested positive for the coronavirus. The difference here is that the teams have been traveling to different ballparks rather than hunkering down in one secure, virus-free environment.
In terms of the specifics for the Rumble At The Ranch, because of current travel restrictions, the 16 surfers that will get after it in Lemoore are currently residing in the United States. State and local health and medical officials have been instrumental in making this happen. Best practices from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, World Health Organization and other sports leagues and broadcast-only live sports events have been put in place.
What that means is, like UFC, there will not be fans allowed, and the staff on hand will also be extremely limited.
Everyone in attendance will have their temperatures taken before arriving on site. Face masks will be required for all, with limited exceptions for surfers and water patrol. Social distancing will be enforced, and enhanced disinfection protocols will be in place.
Surfing has a way of changing and adapting to the times. Yes, beaches have been closed around the world and international surf exploration has essentially come to a halt. But the hope, optimism and the stoke that surfing offers is something we could all use right now.