Surf’s up: French surfers defy Covid-19 ban in battle over beaches

Surfers at a beach near Cannes, France, on May 11, 2020.
Surfers at a beach near Cannes, France, on May 11, 2020. © Reuters / France 24

A group of surfers in Cannes, in southeast France, defied a government ban to take to the waves on Monday amid a debate over whether beaches should continue to be closed to the public to stop the spread of Covid-19.

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"It's so much fun, we've got the waves, the sun,” one surfer, named Adrien, told Reuters.

The group of around a dozen surfers were in the water for about two hours, before local police arrived in a patrol boat to force them to leave the beach.

"We surfed for what? Two hours? Four police officers arrived and made us get out of the water, but it didn't take us long to get back into the water,” said Nicolas, a Belgian surfer living in France.

France’s beaches, closed since March, have become a battleground in the debate over how far government restrictions to control the spread of the pandemic should go.

The French government had originally planned to keep beaches closed until June at the earliest, even as it begins easing other lockdown measures including re-opening shops, forests and parks.

It was a decision that angered local authorities in coastal regions, who say beaches are vital for their economies, as well as surfers who argue their sport poses little danger.

But the French government changed course last week and said it will now consider re-opening beaches on a case-by-case basis and applications from local mayors are currently being processed.

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