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100 Surfers March in Madeira/protest endangered wave

Surfers of Madeira unite - photo by Nelio de Sousa

100 Surfer March in Madeira

World´s Surfers Unite to Protest Endangered Waves

Save the Waves Coalition recently organized a series of events in
Madeira, in a desperate attempt to preserve its endangered surf spots,
which include the famous spot of Jardim do Mar. Sponsored in part by a
generous last minute donation by Patagonia, Inc., Save the Waves
representatives traveled to the island to implement their third
campaign on the island. Madeira, an autonomous region of Portugal,
lies approximately 400 miles off the coast of Morocco, and is home to
some of the highest quality big-wave spots on the planet. The
government has been conducting what many feel is an assault on the
coastline, with seawalls and marinas planned in almost every coastal
village. The surfers on the island are devastated, as over half of
their spots are threatened with damage, but due to their small numbers
have been largely ineffective in getting the government¹s cooperation.

Save the Waves executive director Will Henry met with many members of
Parliament during his week there, joined by representatives from
Portuguese environmental groups Cosmos and Quercus, in an effort to
garner support for their movement. The strategy proved to be very
effective, gaining alliances with all of the major minority parties.
On Friday, September 19, a conference was held, with experts from
around the globe offering both criticism and alternatives to the
proposed projects. Speakers included Pedro Bicudo, a physics
professor, Domingos Rodrigues, a geologist, Joao Valente from Surf
Portugal Magazine, and Gibus de Soultrait from Surfrider Europe.
Speakers also included Will Henry, Idalina Perestrelo from Quercus, and
the colorful Gil Canha from Cosmos. Most moving was the story of
Madeira¹s initial surf discovery by Gibus, who came alone to the island
in 1977, and was now returning for the first time since.

Immediately afterwards, supporters took to the streets, with signs,
banners and whistles, marching through the streets of Funchal and
chanting ³salvem o litoral,² or ³save the seafront.² Over 100 marchers
strong, they walked along the coastal road in Madeira¹s capital city at
rush hour, creating quite a spectacle. They were joined by important
members of the Parliament, which together represented all three of the
minority parties in the government. The event sent a huge message to
the ruling party of PSD, which has for two years refused to meet with
any of the organizations. PSD and their leader, President Alberto Joao
Jardim, have been in power for over twenty years, and it is estimated
that they control over 70% of the island¹s employment. For this
reason, many people are afraid to participate in protests, for fear of
losing their jobs. Despite this fact, many people showed the courage
to express their unhappiness with the government-sponsored destruction
of their natural coastline.

In Jardim do Mar, construction of a seawall and coastal road is nearing
completion. Once named ³the world¹s best and (perhaps only) big wave
point break² by Surfer Magazine, the point has been drastically altered
by the work. The entire natural shore has been buried under the new
road, and a protection wall has been placed between it and the waves,
in the form of ugly cement blocks. The blocks extend perhaps 10 meters
past the original shoreline, and surfers have already seen backwash.
There is still some hope that the wave will work at low tide, but that
won¹t be known until the winter swells arrive.

In Lugar de Baixo, the point break that Save the Waves Coalition fought
so bitterly to save just two years ago from a proposed marina, a
seawall along the shore has been completed, this time to protect a
hotel and shopping complex. Previously, the wave was best at high
tide, but now there is too much backwash at that tide to surf it.
Elsewhere, at Contreiras, a seawall was completed to protect a nearby
fish farm. And that¹s not all; seawalls are going in at Ponta Delgada
and Faja da Areia, too.

Jardim do Mar, Big Wave spot, Madeira

At least one positive development occurred shortly after the protest.
The following day, as the surfers from Madeira and abroad paddled out
to form a ceremonial circle of solidarity, Save the Waves received news
that the Vice President of Madeira was ready to meet with them as soon
as next week. They also requested that attendees at the meeting, from
all three organizations, offer suggestions on how to alter the projects
to make them more acceptable. This marks a definite change in policy,
and is a first step towards finding a solution. The events appear to
have achieved what they were designed for, which is to force the
government to cooperate through international pressure. The message is
clear that surfers can effect change, especially with a little help
from the surf industry, and the hard work and cooperation of a good
team of concerned people. The Coalition hopes to convince the
government to undo the damage that has been already done, and to aid in
redesigning the projects that are yet to happen. If this can be
achieved, it will be the greatest victory yet.

To help save Madeira¹s surf, and for up-to-date news on the campaign,
please visit

Check the latest Europe Surf Reports and Forecasts

More European surfing news available here

Will Henry

executive director

Save the Waves Coalition

3500 Coast Highway

PO Box 183

Davenport, CA 95017 USA


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