Surfers Unite to Save Waves: The Global Wave Conference 3

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On the first ever Global Wave Wednesday, a report on how surfers from ten countries came together May 5-8, 2013, in Rosarito Beach at the Third Annual Global Wave Conference to talk about strategies to preserve waves and beaches.

 “We are more than a wave,” Pablo Narvaez of Barra de la Cruz told me last week while we ate lunch at the Rosarito Beach Hotel.

 Barra de la Cruz, considered one of the world’s best waves by Surfer Magazine, is an indigenous coastal village in Mexico where surfing is the main source of tourist revenues. “We have sea turtles, a mangrove lagoon and a beautiful village filled with culture,” said Pablo.

Pablo was among the surf conservationists from 19 organizations representing ten countries who came together in Rosarito Beach at the world’s largest gathering dedicated to global wave protection in Rosarito Beach for the for the 3rd Global Wave Conference to discuss experiences and strategies to protect coastal ecosystems and resources.

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Alfredo Ramirez of UAPO and Carlos Luna of Rosarito Beach.

“Over the last decade the surf conservation movement has blossomed but until recently the world’s surf protection groups have been working in isolation,” said Surfrider Foundation Environmental Director Dr. Chad Nelsen. “The Global Wave Conference is designed to change that and promote exchange of knowledge and programs, information sharing and collaboration, with the larger goal to establish a unified front for global wave protection.”

 The conference represents a growing understanding that the world’s coastlines, and more specifically its surf spots, are important economical, ecological, cultural and recreational resources that must be protected.

 “The GWC was a really productive and amazing conference. From local fisherman in Baja, to non-profit leaders in the UK, to representatives from the UNDP in Costa Rica; The true strength of the conference was to create new and innovative partnerships among all surf users,” said Save the Waves Executive Director Nik Strong-Cvetich.

Nik Strong-Cvetich of Save the Waves, Gustavo Danemann of Pronatura-Noroeste, and from WILDCOAST Sofia Gomez, Fay Crevoshay and Eduardo Najera.

Nik Strong-Cvetich of Save the Waves, Gustavo Danemann of Pronatura-Noroeste, and from WILDCOAST Sofia Gomez, Fay Crevoshay and Eduardo Najera.

In Rosarito Beach, a number of the attendees represented communities throughout Mexico and Latin America who are striving to conserve their waves, beaches, and way of life through surfing tourism and conservation.

Local conference participants discussed strategies to protect coastal access and surf spots.  According to Dr. Eduardo Najera, Director of COSTASALVAJE, “Surfing provides a unique way to get in contact with nature and can increase people’s awareness about coastal conservation and sustainable use of the coastline.”

 Fernando Marvan from Surf Ens presented on the recently established Bahia Todos Santos World Surfing Reserve. Carlos Luna of Rosarito Beach and Alfredo Ramirez of UAPO discussed youth surfing in the region and the future of the sport in Baja California.

 “Waves are natural resources, it is up to us to protect them. As ocean lovers we need to spread the love and also educate young surfers about our environment,” said Alfredo who organizes youth surfing contests and lessons in both the U.S. and Mexico. “They are the next generation that will take care of our coasts.”

Participants who spoke on issues along the U.S.-Mexico borde and in Baja.

Participants who spoke on issues along the U.S.-Mexico borde and in Baja.

 Artemio Murillo and Jaime Villavicencio travelled all of the way from the fishing village of Bahia Asuncion in Baja California Sur to present on how surfing has been a catalyst for coastal stewardship. Jaime helps fix up old surfboards in his remote village to make sure that local kids have access to surfing.

 One of the most moving presentations was by Pablo Narvaez who discussed how his tiny Oaxaca community of 800 people is effectively managing their coastal resources and offered a model that can be replicated in many areas around the world. “We charge a fee to use our beach services. Those monies in turn fund community projects and medical care for every member of our village,” said Pablo.

 Presentations were also given by Surfers Against Sewage from the UK, Save the Waves, Salvem o Surf from Portugal, Surfrider Europe, Surfers Environmental Alliance, the Canary Island Surfing Federation, Desarrollo y Gestion Costera from Peru and Oso and Golfito Initiative from Costa Rica.

 “Every wave is unique. Every beach is important for the community,” said Carlo Grigoletto, Executive Director, Desarrollo y Gestión Costera (DGCOSTERA) of Peru.

Will Henry and Nik from Save the Waves with Pablo Narvaez from Barra de la Cruz, Mexico.

Will Henry and Nik from Save the Waves with Pablo Narvaez from Barra de la Cruz, Mexico.

 For Brad Former of the Gold Coast Surf Council in Australia, “There’s no reason why all major surf cities internationally can’t adopt a Surf Management Plan to extend beyond National and World Surfing Reserves models.”

 The conference concluded with a field trip to Ensenada to show some of the exceptional efforts being carried out by local community groups and NGOs and the location of what will be Mexico’s first World Surfing Reserve in Bahia Todos Santos. The reserve that will be launched sometime in the fall, will include San Miguel, Tres Emes, Salsipuedes and Todos Santos Island.

Here I am presenting on wave conservation in Mexico.

Here I am presenting on wave conservation in Mexico.

 “The conference also delivered the first ever united global action for wave protection through Global Wave Wednesday. A great template for working together.” Hugo Tagholm, Director, Surfers Against Sewage.

 As an act of solidarity the groups attending the Global Wave Conference agreed to support Surfers Against Sewage’s Protect Our Wave campaign, which is designed to increase legal protection for surfing in the UK.

 “It was great to see the commitment, tenacity and innovative approaches surfers are using to protect the waves they love all over the planet,” said Surfrider Foundation Executive Director Jim Moriarty.

 

Some of the group on a field trip to visit the Bahia de Todos Santos World Surfing Reserve.

Some of the group on a field trip to visit the Bahia de Todos Santos World Surfing Reserve.

Surfrider CEO Jim Moriarty on Saving Waves

Surfrider CEO Jim Moriarty

At the recent Global Wave Conference organized by the Surfrider Foundation and Surfrider Foundation Europe, one of the key questions and issues was exactly what it means to save waves. How do environmental groups such as the Surfrider Foundation or Save the Waves or Surfers Against Sewage actually go about the task of preserving the world’s best (and not so best) surf spots and the terrestrial and coastal and marine ecosystems that sustain them.

Luckily Jim Moriarty, the CEO of the Surfrider Foundation, has spent a lot of time thinking about these issues. As one of the most effective coastal conservation organizations in the U.S., Surfrider’s network of coastal activists have been on the forefront of just about every coastal issue, including the ongoing effort to preserve the integrity of San Onofre State Beach and its crown jewel surfing area, Trestles. Jim’s leadership on the Save Trestles movement (that is still ongoing) highlighted how critical Surfrider is to the preservation of our coastline and the role that grassroots organizing plays in defending our waves.

Boost Mobile Pro at Trestles. Photo: Moriarty.

Serge Dedina: What is the mission of the Surfrider Foundation and what is its track record in terms of successfully saving surf spots?

Jim Moriarty: Our mission guided our first fight to save First Point, Malibu.  It is the same 27 years later – the protection and enjoyment of the world’s oceans, waves and beaches via our powerful activist network. Virtually every fight we’ve undertaken, including the last 176 victories since January 2006 are connected to the coasts and waves. People incorrectly think that saving a wave is limited to the wave itself. Waves are a sensitive element of the coastal ecosystem. Surfing can be impacted by lack of beach or surf access, degraded water quality or impacts to the coast that effect the wave.

Dedina: At the recent Global Wave Conference in Europe that you attended there was a lot of discussion on different strategies for saving waves, how does wave protection start?

Moriarty: Wave protection starts when there is some kind of value associated to the wave. This protection becomes possible when the local community understands the value of the wave, and their responsibility to protect what they hold dear. Wave areas come close to being completely protected when there is a local group ready, willing and able to fight to protect the wave and preserve its integrity. The inverse of all this is also true.  If locals and laws aren’t engaged to protect waves they are lost. This happens all over the world with a frequency that surfers should pay attention to.

Global Wave Conference

Dedina: When is a surf spot most at risk?

Moriarty: A wave is most at risk when no one is engaged to protect it. This isn’t any different than most things in life. If you aren’t willing to engage and fight for something you love you may lose it when it faces real dangers. A great example is Harry’s in Baja. It was a “secret spot,” then it was put at risk by the development on a Liquefied Natural Gas facility, and then it was destroyed before anyone could act. Selfishness fed the lack of protection, now it’s gone. This isn’t a complex formula. Think of Killer Dana, gone. Think of whatever wave you’ve heard an older surfer talk about that is now gone. Think of Malibu, still breaking well because three people stood up for it in 1984 (and formed Surfrider Foundation in the process). One very clean lesson we’ve learned over time if no one stands up to protect something, it will be taken away.

Dedina: When is a wave less at risk?

Moriarty: A wave is less at risk when it has locals and laws engaged and protect it. The short version of Surfrider’s perspective is that nothing matches the value of a local, engaged group of volunteers and activists. Nothing.

Laws and or symbolic protection such as a World Surfing Reserve (a relatively new effort to provide non-binding but symbolic protection of the world’s best waves) also protect waves.  Symbolic, non-binding protection is as simple as a plaque, or other kind of designation with local commissions, but does NOT provide legal protection. Sometimes even local resolutions may not be enough to protect the wave. Legal protection is important because laws are tools that can be used when all else fails. Symbolic protections are good because they start the process of assigning a value and show that there is a local community presence ready to act to protect the waves and associated coastal resources. The downside is that nothing is enforceable to turn to if local political action isn’t enough to enforce protection.

Saving Trestles at the Del Mar I hearings 2008.

Dedina: Why is it important to have grassroots groups defend surf spots?

Moriarty: If grassroots groups don’t defend the surf spots, then they are at risk. It is not enough to simply have a group standing by (a Surfrider chapter or another similar group). What’s needed is for that group to have the will to engage. I’ve had a few people tell me “My local wave was lost and where was Surfrider?” My response is always the same “We’re not some SWAT group that parachutes in to protect your local break… we’re you.” If you’re not going to engage and work to protect something you hold dear then you shouldn’t be surprised when it’s taken away because that’s what happens time and time again. Protect what you love or don’t be surprised when it’s taken away.

Dedina: What types of laws do we need in place to protect waves?

Moriarty: Effective legal protection of waves requires laws that protect coastal ecosystems, water quality and beach access. Further, legal protection of waves through formal designation as protected areas can provide important tools to help protect fragile but highly values surfing areas.  Laws alone are not enough.

Laws don’t protect waves any more than highway speed limits don’t automatically make people drive 65 mph. Laws require enforcement to effectively protect waves but there aren’t any guarantees. Attaining legal wave protection is not easy and it’s our view a few waves in the world have this status. One is Tres Palmas in Puerto Rico and another Bells Beach in Australia. The National Surfing Reserves program in Australia is gaining momentum for legal protection of waves, and New Zealand recently past legislation to protect some of their best waves.  This is a good start and is something that we’re pushing for in the United States and beyond.

It’s crystal clear to us that having laws in place does not equate to laws being enforced. I’ve heard numerous people within the environmental movement say “we don’t need more laws, we simply need enforcement of the laws that already exist.”

This brings me to the highest level of wave protection. For a wave to have something approaching 100% protection, there must not only be laws in place to protect that wave, but there must ALSO be local groups who care enough to act to make sure those laws are enforced in a timely and appropriate way.

Tubes and Tapas: Surfing in Northern Spain

Zach Plopping surfing an island wave that only breaks during massive winter swells.

The tapa or pintxo, with the gelatinous and vegetable covering, looked delicious. Since the bartender in this historic district Santander bar was typically rude if not downright hostile, I didn’t bother asking what the ingredients were.

But my first taste caused me to gag and push away my plate as our guide Robert Amasuno, a longtime local surfer said, “You know that gelatin is made from pig’s feet.”

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The last time I was in Santander, on Spain’s stunning northern coast in Cantabria, was the fall of 1983, when I spent a few days surfing on a trip with my little brother Nick and my mother. We had taken the ferry from Plymouth to Santander on our way to Meknes, Morocco, where my dad was working on a United Nations project. I had spent my senior year of high school in Madrid and after our trip to Morocco, I spent a semester at Madrid’s Complutense University.

Back then, the coast around Santander provided endless empty beachbreak waves, warm water and just a few local surfers. The food was excellent. I’ll never forget a dinner of braised rabbit at a rustic country restaurant.

Today northern Spain is a different world. Endless rows of abandoned vacation condos litter the coast (seeing the numerous abandoned construction cranes and vacation villages in Spain is a great way to understand the European and Spanish financial crisis). Surfing is now a big deal with skilled and experienced surfers populating beach cities.

But northern Spain still has a rustic charm that is hard to ignore. The massive Cantabrian range provides a rugged backdrop to the green coast. Hikers enjoy the wildlife and scenery of the rocky shoreline. Picturesque cafes and restaurants serve up mouthwatering seafood.

On this trip I was with Ben McCue and Zach Plopper of WiLDCOAST who had spent a year studying in Santander while undergrads at UCSD. We had  attended the inaugural Global Wave Conference in Biarritz and San Sebastian, and were anxious to sample the world-class Spanish surf.

The second day of the conference took place in San Sebastian at the ultra modernist Kursaal Conference Center designed by Rafael Moneo at the east end of La Zurriola beach. I had previously visited San Sebastian in July during a trip with my two sons and French cousins.

When we arrived the surf was firing. A small crowd rode double overhead offshore waves at the west end of the beach. Bigger bombs to the east went unridden.The minute the conference ended later that day, participants, grabbed boards, stuffed themselves into wetsuits, and paddled out for the evening surf. The surf was well overhead and still offshore.Soon the lineup was populated with surfer-conservationists from South Africa, Spain, France, England, Japan, Portugal, Australia, and the U.S. who shared the plentiful peaks and hooted the best rides.

After our surf, we assembled at the seaside People Café and Lounge on the malecon overlooking La Zurriola to sample pinxtos, jamon serrano, San Miguel beer, and Rioja wine.

It was a great ending to an inspiring conference.

The following day we headed out to Mundaka. Unfortunately the swell had dropped and everyone from northern Spain seemed to have descended on this gorgeous Basque village.

The harbor at Mundaka

We paddled out through the ancient port, caught a couple of waves and then paddled back in.

At a bar overlooking the epic lefthander, considered to be one of the best waves in the world, we ate bocatas de tortilla de patata, and admired the framed photo of the world’s best surfers who had surfed here when Mundaka was an important stop on the ASP Dream Tour.

With south winds still howling and providing offshore conditions (when storms move in from the north from the Atlantic the wind on the north coast of Spain turns offshore for days), we decided to drive west toward Santander.

“We’ll hit up this cool beach we love to surf,” said Ben. “It should be firing.”

About an hour later, we found ourselves winding through a river valley and driving alongside an empty wild beach. In the distance we spotted offshore peaks.

Soon after we were surfing 3-4’ uncrowded A-frames. After our surf we found a nearby café and dug into bowls of pulpo and and calamar.

That evening we found Robert in Santander. Over pinchos and cañas de cerveza he promised a great session at another beach the following morning. “It will be pumping,” he promised.

The following morning I found myself overlooking aqua colored offshore peaks from the cliffs of Dunas de Liencres Natural Park. Pine covered dunes and sandstone cliffs protect the sandy shoreline and a large estuary.

The lineup was empty and there were sandbar peaks up and down the beach.

Out in the water, we all rode hollow overhead waves. A couple of Spanish surfers paddled out, but there were plenty of waves for everyone.

“Most of the time in the winter I surf here by myself,” said Robert.

Back in the carpark after our session, the wind was still offshore and the tide had dropped, shifting the swell down the beach to an insane right peeling off an inside sandbar.

A week later after I was safely home, I received an email from Zach, “Yesterday we scored Rodiles [a left point] – Mundaka’s little, yet hotter, sister. We have been blessed with two weeks of offshore south wind and swell.”

Note: Zach and Ben flew to Bilbao via Paris on Air France. Your best bet is to rent a car and explore the coast, and lodge at small hotels or pensiones in the coastal villages. While Spanish surfers aren’t that friendly, the same advice applies as it does anywhere; never fail to say hello and smile. While nothing is cheap in Europe including Spain, it doesn’t cost anything to be friendly and learn to say, “Hola, buenos dias.”

Great Waves and Wine: Surfing in France

I didn’t expect the weather and ocean temperature to be warmer in France than in Southern California. But as I emerged from the Easy Jet flight in Biarritz after a long flight from San Diego via Paris, it felt like a hot Santa Ana day back home.

About an hour later I found myself at the Cote de Basque beach in Biarritz packed with vacationing families, stand-up paddlers and about 50 kids learning to surf in the 1- to 3-foot low-tide sideshore-offshore emerald waves.

Just another perfect fall day in southwest France, the best place on earth for a surf trip that combines great waves, outstanding food and cool cosmopolitan surf culture.

Surfing in the fall in France means enjoying the change of seasons with sunny skies and ocean temperatures that keep surfers in spring suits or short-arm fullsuits through the end of October.

I was in France’s Basque country for the second time in a few months. In July my sons and I had combined a family visit (my dad’s family is French and lives in Paris) and took a Basque country detour for five days to sample waves I had dreamed about surfing since I first read a Surfer Magazine article about France back in the late ’70s.

This time I had been invited to speak at the inaugural Global Wave Conference that took place in Biarritz and San Sebastian Oct. 24-25, organized by the Surfrider Foundation Europe.

So along with surf conservationists from around the world, I found myself overlooking offshore barrels at Biarritz’s Grand Plage from the Bellevue Conference Center.

“You should have seen how good it was in September,” said Gregory Le Moigno of the Surfrider Foundation Europe, who had invited me to Biarritz along with surfer conservationists from South Africa, Australia, Morocco, Portugal, Spain, New Zealand, England, Japan and the U.S. “It was perfect almost every day.”

My time in France only reinforced my opinion that Biarritz has emerged as the European surf capital. There are plenty of surf shops, arguably the best “surf” restaurant in the world (Le Surfing), hundreds of outstanding surfers, and enough breaks along the coast to keep the crowds down (compared to California).

For surfers, this is the place for you to bring your significant other to divide time between the water and enjoying the sights of the Basque countryside and taste of some of Europe’s best food and wine (Bordeaux is a couple of hours to the north).

With their red-tiled roofs, aqua shutters, outdoor cafes, and a laid-back surf culture that is Laguna Beach meets Paris (but in a completely unpretentious way), the small towns that lie north and south of Biarritz, Saint Jean de Luz, Guethary, Anglet, and Hossegor, provide a great respite for surfers seeking to balance a surfing holiday with something extra.

My base at the Hotel Amaia, a simple surf boutique hotel (with free breakfast and high-speed free Wi-Fi) a few walkable blocks to the beach, was a perfect location for nearby surf and day trips.

“I love visiting the little towns up in the mountains,” said Zach Plopper of WiLDCOAST, who studied here while an undergrad at UCSD, and spent a lot of time living in his car in the seaside parking lots while competing on the European WQS circuit. “After a great surf in the morning, it is nice to get away to and eat good food.”

The sandbars around Hossegor provide endless opportunities for empty offshore barrels. If there is a crowd at one sandbar, just walk down the beach to the next one.

Saint Jean de Luz and Guethary are home to reef and pointbreaks waves with wonderful cafes that overlook the surf and stunning coast.

While in the U.S. the stereotype of unfriendly and rude service in France still persists, I was pleasantly surprised overall by how friendly everyone was and how when I attempted to speak in French  (I speak passable “surf” French), most everyone I dealt with immediately switched to English.

During my last evening in Biarritz, I walked around the nearby Les Halles district, a short walk away from my hotel. I wandered into the inviting, warm and colorful Le Bistrot de Halles, with colorful early 20th century posters. I took a seat at the bar and ordered a grilled steak and fish soup.

The owners hovered around me and the other customers, taking time to chat, pour wine and provide a perfect French bistro experience.

After a long day that had started out with a great surf in overhead offshore barrels, I appreciated the hearty and delightful soup, a perfect steak and crisp frites, warm smiles and attentive service.

So make your plans now to enjoy surfing France next year, the best surfing experience that fall has to offer.

You won’t regret it.

Note on Travel: I flew to Paris on Air France and Biarritz via Easy Jet. Air France doesn’t charge for surfboards if they are under 6 foot 6 inches, but you have to “register” your board in advance (check their website). The service and food on Air France was excellent.

Global Wave Conference 2011 Spain

The Global Wave Conference is now in the second day and it is taking place on the beach at an amazing modernist concert hall on the beach in San Sebastian.Today there are talks about impacts to Mundaka, campaigning in the UK, nature and waves in South Africa. I am talking about the WiLDCOAST coastal conservation experience in Baja.

Day II in San Sebastian for the GWC.

The view from the conference location in San Sebastian. The surf is double overhead and offshore. Everyone is going surfing at lunch.

 

 

For the first time in my life I was granted access to the "VIP Lounge" and joined the rock stars of the Save Surf movement including (left to right) Angel Lobo Rodrigo from the Canary Islands, SAS campaigner, a Dutch Surfrider activist and Hugo Tagholm, Exec. Director of Surfers Against Sewage from the UK.

Will Henry, Save the Waves; Jim Moriarty Surfrider; Dean LaTourrette, Save the Waves and the Dutch Surfrider activist relishing the VIP Lounge.

I am here with Hiromi Matsubara, Executive Director of Surfrider Japan. She has been dealing with the aftermath of the tsunami and the Fukushima disaster.

Global Wave Conference 2011

Conference poster on a street sign in Biarrtiz. This is a real surf town.

I’m at the first ever Global Wave Conference in Biarritz, France. The conference organized by the Surfrider Foundation and Surfrider-Europe, Save the Waves, and Surfers Against Sewage and especially Dr. Tony But,  is an attempt to bring together wave-saving activists and organizations from around the world to discuss tools and techniques from around the world. Zach Plopper and Ben McCue have joined me from WiLDCOAST.

I will be talking in San Sebastian, the second day of the conference on “Saving Wild Waves: How WiLDCOAST Saved 30 Miles Coastline in Baja California, Mexico.”

Dean LaTourrette of Save the Waves (left) and Dr. Tony But (with the sweater)

The conference is taking place today, Monday, October 23 in Biarritz and tomorrow in San Sebastian, Spain on Tuesday October 24.

Mot of us arrived on Sunday evening and had a great dinner with about 20 activists from France, New Zealand, South Africa, Australia, England and the U.S.

The GWC Activist dinner on Sunday evening.

The conference is taking place at the Municipal Auditorium overlooking the Grand Plage of Biarritz. There is simultaneous translation of talks–which is great since they will be given in French, English and Spanish.

Outside of the beachside-auditorium in Biarritz. There are posters plastered all over the city.

The view from the conference location. The surf was 2-3' most of the day and offshore. It is a school holiday so the groms were on the pack most of the day.

 

Stéphane Latxague, CEO of Surfrider Europe who have helped to organize the event and who is the moderator.

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