THE 2020 surf season for Gerroa's Dean Bowen was shaping to be one of his most exciting to date.
By finishing 96th in the World Surf League's Qualifying Series, the Kiama High School alumnus had booked his spot in the inaugural Challenger Series (CS).
Then, after a couple of sold results at the Central Coast Pro, Newcastle Pro and Sydney Surf Pro, the 28-year-old was ready to press the launch button on this 2020 campaign.
However, those ambitions were dashed when the WSL season was pushed back until at least June by the coronavirus.
"While it's disappointing to not be surfing against some of the top surfers around the world at the moment, there are more important things going on right now," Bowen said.
"As excited as I was for this season, especially on the CS, the break has probably come at a good time for me.
"The lack of waves and results at certain events had seen me lose some motivation, which was weird because I love surfing.
"I'm using this time to refresh my system before pressing reset and firing back up."
One aspect that has helped Bowen take his mind off surfing is his part-time job with Kiama-based Avcon Projects, which has seen him work up in Newcastle on a container recovery job.
"Unlike a lot of athletes out there, I'm lucky to have another job to fall back on," he said.
"Usually I have a good balance between the two but it's been a little tougher to stay disciplined with training during the past few months - even though I always make time to get some waves when I can."
Bowen, as much as he'd like to return to competition as soon as he can, is realistic on when the CS might resume.
"It wouldn't surprise me if we missed three-quarters of the season, possibly more," the Werri Beach Boardrider said.
"As the South African leg of the CS, scheduled for the end of June, has been postponed, the next stop is supposed to be in the United States, followed by Spain and Portugal.
"Those three countries are really struggling with the coronavirus right now and it's hard to see how international travel will be allowed into them in the near future - especially trying to get in a couple of hundred surfers, from all over the world."
The the WSL with no action taking place, has used this time to develop a new format for the CT from 2021, which will see the top men's and women's surfers battling out on the final day of the tour for the world title.
"It's a tough time for surfing and something had to change," he said.
"The new concepts, which they have been working on for a couple of years, are really exciting - it essentially gives the top six men and women a grand final."
The changes by the WSL will also directly affect Bowen and the other surfers on the CS and QS.
"It's great the two series' won't clash now," he said.
"It ensures there's always something going on around the world at different times.
"Another advantage will be the implantation of longer heats and wait times, because so many times in the past, the events have been run during small surf, which has been quite disappointing.
"Personally, it's also great I'll only have to be on the road for essentially three to six months, instead of nine.
"The trips are always amazing but are a slog both physically and financially.
"All the changes appear positive for the sport moving forward."
Bowen, until the WSL announces how the rest of the 2020 season might look, is going to make the most of his time back in Australia.
"As we probably won't be leaving Australian soil anytime soon - I'm going to chase the big swell around the country," he said.
"When I was younger, I was lucky enough to have a chance to surf at some of those spots and I've been itching to get back ever since.
"I've earmarked a couple of places in South Australia and Western Australia - particularly in the north-west corner that I want to visit once the border restrictions are eased.
"We've got some of the best swells in the country at our doorstep, so I'm going to try and make the most of this bad situation and enjoy myself."