North Devon has become the 12th global location selected as a World Surfing Reserve, an international designation that celebrates an area’s outstanding surfing beaches and brings together communities and experts to protect them.
The aim of the designation is to protect water quality and the surfing experience from threats such as pollution, harmful coastal development, the impacts of climate change, and a host of other factors that impact the delicate ecosystems on which waves depend.
The North Devon Reserve is the first of its kind in the UK, and only the second in Europe. It is also the first ever cold water World Surfing Reserve, with many of the best waves arriving in the winter season.
Organisers hope the successful implementation of this model in North Devon could be replicated by other coastal areas of the UK.
"This represents a real opportunity to celebrate the surfing environment in North Devon, using scientific research to help us identify threats to wave and water quality, to protect our precious surf breaks"
Adam Hall, co-founder of the Surfing Reserve in North Devon, says: “Our core focus is looking after the quality of the waves themselves and preserving the ecosystems that produce them.
"Surf spots need to be celebrated, recognised and protected in the same way we protect and recognise beautiful national parks like Exmoor.”
The World Surfing Reserves (WSR) program was launched in 2009 by California-based Save the Waves Coalition, an international organisation dedicated to protecting surf ecosystems around the globe.
Nik Strong-Cvetich of Save The Waves said “We are delighted to welcome North Devon as a World Surfing Reserve alongside other iconic protected surfing locations around the world.
"We hope this designation helps give a greater voice to surfers in decisions that will impact the beautiful coastline in North Devon and protect such a diverse range of waves”.
North Devon an exclusive list of World Surfing Reserves that includes Malibu and Santa Cruz in California, Ericeira in Portugal, the Gold Coast, Manly and Noosa in Australia, Punta de Lobos in Chile, Huanchaco in Peru, Guarda do Embau in Brazil, and Bahia de Todos Santos in Mexico.
Each Reserve establishes a Local Stewardship Council to design a “stewardship plan” which aims to improve the conservation of the coastline and waves.
In North Devon the group includes local organisations such as the North Devon UNESCO Biosphere and Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, environmental groups like Surfers Against Sewage, local community groups, surf clubs, local beach businesses and landowners, all coming together to work towards agreed goals.
The group is informed by scientific research and includes coastal experts from the University of Plymouth, including Dr Christopher Stokes who says: “Myself and the whole team at University of Plymouth are extremely proud to be part of the UK’s first World Surfing Reserve.
"It represents a real opportunity to celebrate the unique waves and surfing environment in North Devon, and importantly, to introduce measures that will protect our precious surf breaks, using scientific research to help us identify threats to wave and water quality, as well as enhance the abundant natural capital of the region”
North Devon is a well-established hub of surf culture. A study in 2008 estimated that surfing brought in over £50 million to the area every year, and sustained around 1500 jobs.