Why Putting Dollar Signs on Surf Breaks Helps Protect the Coast
As I paddle out into the chilly, kelpy clutches of the Monterey Bay, the sun peeks over the Aptos hills and fills the morning with a golden glow. Glassy head-high waves wash through the line-up, and an otter appears with a fresh catch of a kelp crab next to me. At no point do I take this experience for granted. I understand that this moment in time and this experience are special and worth protecting. It is moments and coasts like these that Save The Waves Coalition (STW) strives to protect worldwide.
Many times in the past, STW has opposed governments making ill-advised development projects that destroy the waves and the coastal environment. We’ve done it vocally and vociferously, and we’ll likely do it again when another piece of surfing coast around the world is under threat. However, we prefer to be forward-thinking and to work proactively on preserving and protecting our coastal heritage for generations, rather than acting in reactive opposition. This has led us to develop new creative strategies for coastal protection; namely the use of economics and surfing protected areas.
Save The Waves Coalition (STW) was the first NGO to begin using ecosystem service valuation methods to protect the waves. In 2009 and 2010, STW published economic valuation studies on Maverick’s in Half Moon Bay, California and Mundaka, Spain, giving an actual dollar value to the breaks. This approach, called Surfonomics, is now a growing discipline used by many coastal management agencies and allows decision-makers to have full economic information to assess tradeoffs in coastal policymaking. This gives waves and the coast a greater level of protection by giving them a place on the accountant’s ledger.
Along with key partners at National Surfing Reserves (NSR) Australia and the International Surfing Association (ISA), Save The Waves Coalition launched the World Surfing Reserves program. The initiative creates a global network of Surfing Reserves designed to acknowledge and protect the tremendous value of these coastal ecosystems and the surfing resources within them. Save The Waves works with local communities to build capacity for management of these areas to guarantee long-term protection.
Photo: Huanchaco, Peru at sunset. Courtesy of Carlos Ferrer
From the established Reserves in Malibu, Manly Beach, Santa Cruz, and Ericeira, the program is growing rapidly, extending to Huanchaco, Peru and Bahia, Todos Santos Mexico. The program is also developing new mechanisms to sustain long-term conservation outcomes on the ground and integrating our Surfonomics work.
We’ve learned that new models of partnership between government, private industry, academia, and the nonprofit sector can be tremendously effective in executing these initiatives. We need the independence, creativity and nimbleness of the nonprofit, the scale and resources of government, the efficiency and marketing acumen of the private sector, and the research and technical ability of academics.
So far this year we’ve been working through these diverse partners in Bahia Todos Santos, Mexico; Huanchaco, Peru; Pichilemu, Chile; Bali, Indonesia; and right in our backyard of Santa Cruz, California, to protect the coasts and experiences we love.
Here are three things you can do right now to do you part to protect the coasts and oceans:
- Keep up with the news: big things are likely about to happen in Chile and Nicaragua.
- Pick up three pieces of trash every time you leave the beach.
- Support Save the Waves by becoming a member or volunteer. Click here for more information.
Feature image: Punta De Lobos, Chile. Courtesy of Nik Strong-Cvetich
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