Save The Waves Coalition

El Buey Spared?

Above: Jamie Sterling drops into a bomb at El Buey. Photo: FrameShots: Rodrigo Farias/

*Update as of April 2011:

New photos have come in from Arica, Chile, showing the extent of the coastal armoring project near the epic big wave spot El Buey. Debate remains about how these two new groins will affect the wave. We will report any new information received from local surfers in Arica.

A panoramic view of the coastal armoring project.

The southern groin.

Construction on the northern groin.

Click here to watch a video about El Buey presented by Patagonia.

*Update as of February 2011:

Construction on two groins designed to help protect a beach in Arica, Chile, have been completed. The contraversial groins were built near the world-class big wave break, El Buey, and have been the source of protests by local surfers and environmentalists concerned about the impact they will have on the offshore reef break.

Thankfully, according to local surfer activists who have been monitoring the project, the groins thus far do not appear to be impacting the wave itself at El Buey with backwash or any detrimental wave refraction. However, the groin construction may have introduced an added safety hazard on very large swells for surfers going right, who now run the risk of getting washed into the groin if caught inside.

One positive development in this ongoing issue was that the local government in Arica, apparently in response to pressure from surfers & environmental activists, altered their environmental impact report to account for more detail on wave impact, and in a broader variety of conditions including during much larger swells. Thus, there was more confidence going into the project that the construction would not directly impact the wave.

While it appears the wave will not be impacted, Save The Waves and other environmental groups still remain adamantly opposed to the project as well as any coastal armoring projects that attempt to build hard structures in an effort to manipulate beaches and coastal areas.

Some new photos of the area and construction:

Overview of the area. El Buey is the wave furthest out in the top center of the photo, and the groin construction is located to the left of the wave at the pointed edge of the land mass, running left to right. Photo: Neil Lazarow.

Construction of one of the southern of the two groins, shot from the beach they are trying to protect, El Laucho. The completed groin is reportedly 80 meters long. Photo: Neil Lazarow


*Update as of July 2010:

"VICTORY" IN ARICA SHORT LIVED - Breakwater Construction Continues 

In early June we were happy to announce that local surfers in Chile were celebrating a temporary victory against the breakwater construction project that threatened the big-wave surf of El Buey in Arica, Chile. A public meeting of over 3 hours of debate and arguments ended with the regional governor suspending the construction project in Arica and issuing an executive order to stop work. 

Unfortunately, illegal construction of the breakwater continues. The good news is that the local community is loudly protesting the issue and it's receiving extensive coverage on television, radio and in newspapers in the region. Local surfer activists are doing an excellent job at keeping the issue alive. The Arica Surfing Federation is working with Chilean lawyers and experts on waves to show their community that the benefits of the surf spots are better than the construction of a breakwater. See below for background information about this issue. 

Stay tuned for more information as soon as this active issue comes to a head.  

More news details in Spanish at - and read the local news article here

* Original background information & news from May 2010:

Chilean and international surfers are sounding the alarm about an artificial beach nourishment and construction project that could threaten the surf at El Buey and El Gringo in Arica, two of northern Chile's biggest and most perfect surf spots.

Although construction surveying activity has already begun on the beach, the project is inspiring much local opposition and signatures against the project have already been collected from important leaders including the city mayor, the local tourism board, the chamber of commerce, regional senators, and numerous other local and regional political leaders.

A press conference was recently held at El Buey with big wave surfers Ramón Navarro and Kohl Christensen. Save The Waves is still gathering precise information about the threat, but the project includes a series of breakwaters designed to protect an artificial sandy beach located inside of the well-known big wave break, El Buey, and near El Gringo, another popular reef break and the site of numerous international big wave contests. The construction threat includes an artificial beach located inside the surf breaks and a breakwater extending 125 meters long and 4 meters tall. 

Save The Waves is also engaging the services of local environmental attorneys to research the situation and determine the best course of action. If and when actual construction of this breakwater threat to El Buey occurs, we will be present with a court order to halt the construction and continue the opposition to the project. 

Although El Buey and El Gringo could be threatened by this construction project, we are confident that with the help of the international surfing community and local leaders we can protect the surf and avoid the burial of some of Chile's best waves.

For breaking news in Spanish on this issue, please follow: and also our STW twitter news feed at: