Covid-19 in Italy: A Surfer’s Perspective

A Quarantine Interview with Local Italian surfer Alois Pachner.

A perfect swell hit central Italy’s coastline at the very beginning of the country-wide lockdown of the Coronavirus outbreak. No surfers entered the water in fear of arrest or social ostracism. We interviewed Alois Pachner, a local surfer in Rome, to get a firsthand account of a small surf community’s experience being inside one of the hardest hit countries of the 2020 Covid-19 pandemic.

Where in Italy are you and how would you compare the waves there to other parts of the world?

I was born in Rome and have been living here ever since.

Waves here are not too different from an average Cali wave I would say, however, we don’t get to surf as often as many other spots around the world. Usually- if we’re lucky- we get to surf around once or twice a week.

Wave quality really depends on many things (seasons, winds and breaks.)

I’d say that this is what makes surfing in Italy so special: you can drive along the coast and find multiple spots, each with their own characteristics.

The first day of Roman quarantine. Photo: The Banzai Eye

How has Covid-19 impacted your city? How has it impacted Italy as a whole?

Luckily I’m living in the seaside of Rome, which is pretty far from where the virus has spread the most. However, I’d say that the pandemic has had a big impact on everyone’s lives. All of us are staying indoors and only leaving our houses to buy some food or to take the dog for a walk.

Many people are loosing their jobs or are running out of money to handle this situation anymore. Suddenly, we’re all asked to be patient while inside but most of us are scared.

Photo: The Banzai Eye

Describe the conditions around the surf photos you took? How big was it? What swell and winds coalesced to make it good?

The first three pictures were taken in front of where I live, the second day after Italy locked down as a whole. The last picture was taken on the same day, 45 minutes away from where I live, by a local photographer (@thebanzaieye).

We all knew shoulder high waves were approaching and I honestly couldn’t believe that none of my friends were going to be able to surf. It really felt like “Clandestine Surfing,” as we all were scared to go get caught and fined by the police.

So nobody surfed that day. Nevertheless, it was magical to see an empty line up and unridden waves.

Photo: The Banzai Eye

Describe the surf culture in your city. 

Unique I’d say, like every surf culture around the globe. Surfers here are a minority (which is good) but this means less attention is reserved for the requests we make. For example, in the last years the coast took a different shape due to tourism and private beaches. During summer when it’s crowded, sometimes you have to wait for people to get out of the water in order to get a couple waves.

However, if you are willing to drive an hour or more you’ll be able to find empty line ups along the coast and this is what I guess makes surfing in Italy so much fun, it really is “The Search”.

Sardinia (On another occasion) Photo: Onde Nel Bel Paese

How do think Covid-19 will/has changed Italy? The world?

Can’t say, it really depends on how wide your perspective is. The information we are processing from the media is not reliable and many people look at the pandemic in an apocalyptic way, rather than an opportunity to adapt and change.

So far I can say though that I’ve never breathed fresher air. Boats and ships are parked in the harbour, which means that fish and other animals are given time to breath and enjoy uncontaminated water for the first time in 50 years. The bees are back, and birds I’ve never seen before are reappearing in the sky.

There’s undeniable evidence that the Earth is taking back what is hers and we need to accept this in order to have a chance to live harmoniously the rest of our lives.

Sardinia Photo: Onde Nel Bel Paese
Grazie Alois Pachner


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