Back on the Water after Lockdown
At the start of Lockdown, I was still going out paddling as there was no official guidance or regulations not to. I was of course playing it safe and staying well within my capabilities so as to reduce the risk of having to call on the emergency services. But a lonely paddle on the sea here was about as socially distanced as it’s possible to get in the UK so all was good there. I’m also fortunate enough (thanks to careful planning) to be able to paddle from home without having to travel so I wasn’t breaking any rules.
The Welsh Government however pretty much put a ban on watersports when they released regulations that stated:
The form of exercise is not specified in the regulations, but in practice this is constrained by other restrictions that have been imposed. The relevant restrictions are the closure of indoor leisure facilities such as swimming pools, closure of certain footpaths and land in the countryside and the overarching prohibition (which derives from regulation 8) on unnecessary travel. As one of the purposes of the restrictions is to reduce pressure on the Welsh NHS, there is an expectation also that the reasonable excuse to exercise does not include activities that involve a significant degree of risk (for example swimming or other exercise at sea, or in lakes, rivers or other waterways). Exercise, therefore, should be done locally and generally be limited to walking, running and cycling.
The fact that they had specifically singled out swimming or other exercise at sea, in lakes, rivers or other waterways as activities involving a significant degree of risk was an effective ban on watersports. Many of course argued (and rightly so) that such sports are safer statistically than cycling or evening running, but the rules are the rules so I duly followed them and stopped all watersports. Not everyone did though so I moaned about those who didn’t as it didn’t seem fair that most of us were abiding by the rules but some weren’t.
Lifting of the Ban
I noticed on Monday after restrictions in England were relaxed that the regulations on the gov.wales website had been updated as well. The paragraph quoted above now said:
The form of exercise is not specified in the regulations, but in practice this is constrained by other restrictions that have been imposed. The relevant restrictions are the closure of indoor leisure facilities such as swimming pools, closure of certain footpaths and land in the countryside and the overarching prohibition (which derives from regulation 8) on unnecessary travel. As one of the purposes of the restrictions is to reduce pressure on the Welsh NHS, our advice is that people should not undertake forms of exercise that involve a significant degree of risk.https://gov.wales/leaving-home-exercise-guidance
The part that specifically mentioned watersports had been consciously removed and now it just said that people should not undertake forms of exercise that involve a significant degree of risk. This is of course a little ambiguous. What constitutes ‘risk’ to one person might not to another as we all have different levels of risk-taking. Similarly the degree of risk will also depend on an individuals level of competency at a particular activity. On top of that, and especially related to watersports is that the location, conditions and forecast will also have a huge bearing on what involves risk and what doesn’t. Everything involves some degree of risk but than can be minimised if the participant knows what they are doing and does it in a responsible manner.
The fact that the specific mention of watersports had been removed meant that I felt I could argue that it would be OK to get back on the water again so long as I adhered to the other restrictions such as the prohibition of unnecessary travel. I would of course also take precautions to keep my activities as devoid of risk as possible. Canoe Wales however hadn’t picked up on the changes in the government documents and were still quoting the original statement which was now out of date.
I’m assuming some people must have informed them of the changes though as they finally caught up and released a statement that said:
Following a meeting today with representatives from Welsh Government, we are now able to recommend a very limited return to paddling as a form of exercise.
Canoe Wales have also published a document about getting back on the water – all of which is common sense and what any self-respecting watersports participant should be doing all the time anyway. But in case you don’t know these things, you can read it here: GUIDANCE ON THE RETURN TO PADDLESPORT ACTIVITY
This, coupled with the updated government regulations and the fact that the RNLI, Coastguard and other water sports governing bodies were saying that a return to the water in Wales was OK, was the green light I needed. I didn’t need to be told twice.
Today’s lunch time activity for me was a surf ski paddle from Ynyslas to Borth and back. It was nothing too exciting but there was a stiff NNW wind gusting to 20 knots so the sea was a little choppier than it look from shore. It also meant that it was a bit of a slog into a headwind on the way back. The sea was a lovely green colour, the sun was shining and the barrel jellyfish were out in force. I was back on the water too so things were good.
What with an hour of riding on a virtual stage of ‘Our Giro’ before work, a surf ski at lunchtime and a run planned for later in the day, today will be a 3-shower kind of day!