No Surf In Olón, Coronavirus (COVID-19)
Living in the town of Olon, the days have been beautiful and the wave machine continues pumping.
What has changed are the new laws, ordered by the municipality of Santa Elena and by force majeure we have entered quarantine. It is because of the Coronavirus (COVID-19) For some the term 'quarantine' is already known, others will wonder what is it? This is the first time I have faced such a threat, and the facts are clear, people are a little afraid at the time of writing this entry. There are now more than 500 people infected throughout Ecuador.
The following protocols and ideas emerged recently from community leaders, such as the prohibition to not leave your home, to not visit the neighbors and not even to improperly leave the city or small town where you live.
Yesterday I was involved in a small incident with the local police. I knew the curfew began at 4pm, so I went to surf at 2:30. Taking advantage of the waves for an hour, it was all good and I was enjoying it. There were a few other guys and one girl surfing too. Taking the last wave was where it all started.
I wanted to get out of the water, but didn't want to paddle in, so I caught one last wave to ride in on. It was a bit big, had a current, and a very good wave formed. I took a right and just when I was about to finish it, found that this section of the ridge had a lot of strength to it. So I went flying through the air. When I hit the water, I felt my cord snap. It was a critical moment, but I kept calm and knew exactly what I had to do. I floated out then swimming hard, I reached my surfboard in just seconds. I climbed on and sat for a moment in relief. But not for long. The police were waiting for me on the beach.
I really thought they were just going to tell me to go home, as curfew hadn't begun. It wasn't 4:00 yet. His words were stern and clear. "What are you doing in the water? Do you know we are under quarantine?" He told me that yesterday a new sanction was announced: 'Any person found swimming or surfing in the water, or even walking on the beach, will be arrested for not abiding by the quarantine rules'. He informed me that it is only permitted to leave your house for a few reasons. People are only allowed to go to the store for food or to the pharmacy for medicines, otherwise, you must stay in your house. So now I am involved in an arrest! The policeman asked me where I lived and I pointed to my building, just a few meters from the beach. I calmly said that I was sorry, we had not heard the new restrictions and I only believed we were under the 4:00 curfew. I asked to walk home.
He told me "We are going to take you walking." I asked why but said nothing else. He answered, "Friend, you are under arrest." Curiously, the girl who was surfing was only told to go home. By this time we were standing in front of my house. It was then that they tried to put the handcuffs on me. Since we live on the coast, the handcuffs were old and really rusty making them seem even creepier.
I started yelling for my friends inside to open the door, yelling even louder when the police started attacking me with brute force. I struggled enough to avoid the handcuffs and prevented them from taking me. A small crowd had started to form of my friends and neighbors and it was almost 4:00 by now. Finally, they left, but not before confiscating my surfboard.
I am not a criminal and was angry and humiliated to be treated as one. I only asked, politely, that they understand we didn't get 'up to the minute news' on restrictions. I have lived in Olon for nearly a year and a half. These policemen know it. They have seen me walking through town, food shopping, visiting in the park with friends. Such violence was uncalled for.
Worst of all, they have my surfboard and to tell you the truth, I don't know if I will ever get it back. I'm not sure whether I acted well, or just reacted badly to the attempted arrest. I only know that I acted under unnecessary stress. What do you think?