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Drew Kampion goes deep on World Surfing Reserves

Mavs as a Surfing Reserve? Grant Baker : photo courtesy Mavsurfer/Frank Quirarte 

Environment News

World Surfing Reserve would enshrine spots

Surfersvillage Global Surf News, 10 February, 2010 : - -  If surfers won’t save the world, who will? Obama?  The G20?  The United Nations? Is there some other global network of alert, persistent, environmentally-aware individuals who are similarly trained in the art of navigating variables, overcoming adversity, and appreciating the rarities of perfection?  Who else will do the work?  Who else will hold up the vision?

It’s pretty ironic.  Surfing is all about getting away from the constraints of society – escaping the usual manmade rules, breaking free and committing to the rule of natural law – the physics of wave form and the glide. Surfers are a nomadic sort of tribe, conversant with the wild, in touch with the natural world at a time when the natural world is increasingly remote from most people on the planet.

Surfers are like the canaries in the coal mine … reporting back from the shores and coastal edges, where so many of the changes and impacts of unsustainable growth and pollution and climate change are focused.  Surfers are in a position to sense and experience the urgency, and to thereby stake a claim on the possible in the face of the so-called inevitable.

Since it’s a universe of waves – waves of all scales and materials – surfers are uniquely positioned to understand how they work and to know how to ride them … because the principles inherent in all waves are the same.

The World Surfing Reserves (WSR) movement is just another wave. Each WSR is a Trojan horse, conceived in cooperation and with appropriate enthusiasm, but harboring powerful, unseen, and unanticipated effects.  The WSR that is fully embraced and actualized at the local, national, and global levels – where it becomes an asset not merely for surfers and beach-lovers, but for the bioregional community of which it is a part – will bring value and better quality of life to the whole.

In enshrining these surf spots the program will be enhancing and, in a sense, enshrining their surf-oriented communities, too – affirming what has great value in that place.  A WSR is a celebration of place.

The bubble provided by the WSR designation should act like a semi-permeable membrane, enabling certain kinds of activities and sustainable developments while resisting the intrusion of others (like landfills, mining operations, trawlers, and the grosser monoliths of unchecked development).  The simple existence of the WSR acts as a tactical wedge that inserts itself into every future discussion concerning the fate and destiny of the reserve area.

A WSR models a kind of environmental synergy, integrating the principles of preservation with sustainable use … with stewardship and cultural celebration.  A WSR provides a nexus for rallying and focusing energy and assets on ensuring that a particular coastal area will be permanently vested with intrinsic importance – an importance that local surfers and others already understand but may not be able to communicate.

The WSR designation is this communication.  This plaque, this installation, this monument that dedicates the WSR communicates a cohesive valuation forward through time – says that these people, representing a broad local, regional, national, and global community of like-minded individuals hereby value this place – right here – and declare the intention of holding this place sacred for as long as the waves break and the tides cycle.

In other words, each small monument is a symbol for the greater monument that is each surf spot and its enshrined environment, dedicated forward for the common benefit and for the enjoyment and appreciation of present and future generations.

Each WSR is a microcosm – a meeting of land and sea selected for the unique and salutary nature of its waves and natural setting.  The dedication of each WSR seeks the protection of this microcosm, this coastal zone of waves and habitat, from wanton destruction and exploitation through the positive force of appreciation and valuation.

As a force of inception, it’s worth mentioning that the WSR enterprise is in keeping with the initial impulse of John Kelly, who created SAVE OUR SURF (the ancestor of all surf-related environmental organizations) in the early 1960s, and the result is over a hundred Hawaiian beaches and surf breaks saved that would have been lost but aren’t. That’s the power of an idea.

The Save The Waves crew picked up where John Kelly left off. Founded on work with International Surf Spot Protection and modeled on the vision of Brad Farmer and the National Surfing Reserve program in Australia, the concept of World Surfing Reserves draws inspiration from Patagonia's Yvon Chouinard, who asked:

“Why not have surf breaks – famous, great breaks like Jeffrey’s Bay, Rincon and Malibu – as [UNESCO] World Heritage Sites, so that the whole world sees their value and wants to protect them?”

Creating World Surfing Reserves may not in itself save the world, but it’s a step in that direction.  A World Surfing Reserve is like a world park, but with more dynamic local interaction.  A WSR is a sort of coastal appreciation zone, and it’s an opportunity zone … and a possibility zone, which happens to be on the coast, in a place where surf culture has taken root.

Undertaking the creation of a WSR – to enshrine a wave and its environs – is to set in motion a medium of communication for disparate parties that might not otherwise become engaged. And once communication begins, who knows where it will lead?

This enshrinement is a kind of protection, but it is not a sure one. Over time threats will come, one by one, to all of the world’s great surf spots, and over time, again and again, they will be compromised.  And in the end, the enshrinements we make now and in future years may be the deciding factor that saves a beach or a surf spot or a park … or just a jewel of the natural world.

World Surfing Reserves is about surfers saving the world, one wave at a time, and while it may not guarantee that a beach or a wave will be saved, it does enshrine the global community’s demand that it must be.

- Drew Kampion, WSR Vision Council, January 2010

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Drew Kampion

Environment - Surfersvillage 


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