RIGHT now I am perfectly, completely, and utterly alone in the surf. The water is as tepid and indifferent toward me as I was toward my father’s fear that I might get stuck here, and it feels good. Offshore winds are blowing, and they probably will all day. The swell is a steady 3 to 6 feet at 13 seconds or so, and has been for nine days running. It is washing away a winter full of swells that I missed while at work. It’s hard to even picture my last wave at home in New York — just a vague notion of some gutless, waist-high dribble. In this tropical bliss, that seems like a lifetime ago.
Things are quiet in Nicaragua. Impending pandemic aside, there are very few people, let alone tourists around. I’ve been waking with the sun and surfing alone for at least an hour or two before maybe, just maybe, another surfer paddles out.
Apart from daily check-ins with editors, I am off the grid. My agenda, day in, day out, is a familiar routine to the itinerant surf traveler: surf, eat, catch up on back issues of neglected magazines, surf again, come in for a cocktail, more food, a procession of bottles of local suds, bed by 10 p.m, and up early for more. It is a veritable Groundhog Day.
New York is by now living out a very different version of Groundhog Day. Shelter-in-place orders are in place, and only businesses deemed essential—grocery stores, pharmacies, and a few others—are open. Offices, restaurants, bars, theaters and stadiums are all to remain shuttered until further notice. There are some 20,000 confirmed cases in New York alone, and the estimated death toll in the US is in the hundreds and doubling almost daily — casualties are mostly among the elderly and people with preexisting conditions, but not always. We know that the virus spreads through close contact, and that the virus can live and linger on surfaces for an extended period of time and that a vaccine is months away at the earliest.