Reports have emerged that Japanese surfers are continuing to surf on a beach in the radioactive exclusion zone near the site of the Fukushima nuclear disaster.
Once a popular surf spot, Tairatoyoma beach, has been subject to radioactivity warnings since the nuclear reactor at Fukushima was destroyed by a tsunami, which was caused by a magnitude 9.0 earthquake back in 2011. The beach is situated within the 800 square kilometres which has been sectioned off since the disaster, due to high levels of radioactive contamination.
Whilst photographing efforts to decontaminate the local town, photographer Eric Lafforgue spotted surfers in the line up. “Very few people have returned to this area” he reported “and I could not have imagined finding them here. According to them, this place is one of the best in Japan to surf as the waves are big and very good to surf.”
“Houses are almost empty except for a few old people” he continued, “but people come back every week to take care of their houses. So they are all clean apart from the gardens that are wild as the grass is radioactive so people do not cut it.”
Generally the only people seen around the town are clean up workers dressed head to toe in protective gear. Many also spend time working on the beach itself, removing bags of sand labelled as radioactive. When approached one of these workers was quick to warn Lafforgue of the dangers of swimming in the sea.
“According to a man working in the Fukushima power plant, who spoke anonymously, the main risk for him is the water as contaminated water is still sent into the sea.”
As surfing’s popularity grows and spreads to new regions around the world, we hear more stories where surfers have to overcome great obstacles and take serious risks just to get in and catch a wave at their local break. When one Fukushima surfer was asked if it’s worth it by Lafforgue, his answered echoed that of surf communities around the world, stating simply that ‘The passion is bigger than the risks’.