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Can You Get Infected with the Coronavirus While Surfing?

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If you surf regularly, like five times a week or more, staying out of the water could be next to impossible. Unfortunately, there’s a lot of confusion surrounding surfing safety in this pandemic.

This article aims to shed more light on the subject and offer tips for surfer professionals and hobby riders on how to stay safe in and out of the water.

Ocean spray and viral transmission

A lot of the confusion about the effects of COVID-19 on surfing revolves around the likelihood of whether or not airborne ocean-spray can carry risks of viral transmission.

A scientist from the University of California in San Diego says that the risks of airborne ocean-spray are real. Speaking to the San Diego Union-Tribue, scientist Kim Prather had this to say: "Surfers are saying that they're safe if they stay six feet away from other people, but that's only true if the air isn't moving... Most of the time, there's wind or a breeze at the coast. Tiny drops of virus can float in the air and get blown around."

An environmental virologist from the University of Sydney offers more perspective, saying there’s no consensus that COVID-19.

"It's tricky though," says Dr. Hannah Sassi, "Could virus particles be taken up by ocean breeze and travel? It's probably not that likely, and it could happen on the shore just as easily (if it at all). Research and medical data are pouring in very quickly. We're learning new things about Covid-19 every day, and the situation is constantly evolving."

Staying safe

So it’s not so much the saltwater but the presence of clumps of people on the shore or on the waves. If you really need to surf and you’re in an area where outdoor activities like surfing are allowed, it’s best to do so in an area where there are fewer people engaging in the same activity as you are. 

Since you’re bound to swallow or spit out a good deal of seawater, it’s best to err on the side of caution and not hit the surf on days when it’s actually raining as runoff from suspicious bodies of water inland could carry harmful pathogens, living you exposed to a host of viruses and bacteria that aren’t just COVID-19.

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