North Devon has become the first World Surfing Reserve in UK – joining an impressive global network of surf destinations including Malibu, California and Manly beach, Australia.
World Surfing Reserves is a programme that proactively identifies, designates and preserves outstanding waves, surf zones and their surrounding environments around the world. Launched in 2009 by the Save the Waves Coalition, it comprises 12 designated surfing reserves that are managed and protected by local communities.
The new North Devon reserve encompasses over 30km of coastline across the resorts of Croyde, Saunton, Woolacombe and Lynmouth. It received its designation during an inauguration on Woolacombe beach, celebrated by organisations including Surfers Against Sewage, National Trust, Plastic Free North Devon and North Devon RNLI Lifeguard.
"Our hope is that the evidence and experience from North Devon can spark a wave of protection for the coastline around these precious islands."
Kevin Cook, co-founder of the North Devon World Surfing Reserve, said, “We are delighted to have this remarkable coastline recognised for its quality surf and precious ecosystem. We can now work together to protect this area for generations to come.”
Trent Hodges, conservation programmes manager at Save The Waves, said, “This stretch of surf ecosystems in North Devon perfectly represents what the World Surfing Reserves programme works to protect.
“But WSRs are about more than collection of surf breaks. This programme is about passionate surfers who step up and rally their communities to look after the places they love and be a voice for the waves.”
While the UK has a history of protecting national parks and green areas, there is very little formal protection of the surf and intertidal zone. This includes the environment that creates the different types of unique waves in an area - what Save The Waves calls a “surf ecosystem”.
Establishing a World Surfing Reserve gives the surfing community a voice in decision-making processes that affect North Devon’s surf ecosystem. This includes a local stewardship plan and community-led council that will shepherd all projects - including solutions to poor water quality, sewage pollution, plastic debris and coastal erosion - as well as efforts to gain formal protection of the surf zone against threats such as coastal development or dredging plans.
Adam Hall, co-founder of the North Devon WSR, said, “We don't have to be bystanders, you and I can stand up and protect our important natural spaces. Our hope is that the evidence and experience from North Devon can spark a wave of protection for the coastline around these precious islands."
The North Devon World Surfing Reserve joins others including Malibu, California; Ericeira, Portugal; Manly Beach, Australia and Santa Cruz, California and Playa Hermosa, Costa Rica.