Representatives from Save The Waves Coalition visited the Canary Islands in 2008, succeeding in an effort to protect and possibly enhance the islands surfing environment. During the ten-day trip, our two surfing emissaries focused on the wave known as La Enramada, a surf spot on the island of Tenerife that was threatened by a coastal development proposal.
The construction project threatening La Enramada was proposed by the Hotel Riu Palace in 2006, which intended to create an artificial beach in front of the luxury hotel. The sand would have been transported from another part of the Canary Islands, and seawalls constructed for sand retention. Leading up to the trip, Save The Waves Coalition worked closely with the Canary Islands Surfing Federation in an attempt to persuade the Spanish government to deny the proposal. The southwest coast of Tenerife has already seen the destruction of numerous surf spots in the past three decades due to similar artificial beach projects, especially in the tourist zone known as Las Americas, where over eight seawalls currently exist. Numerous artificial beaches already dot the area, and the project at La Enramada was seen not only as unnecessary, but also as an additional blight on a stretch of coast that is already severely scarred by past coastal armament projects.
The trip was the third in the eco-warrior feature article series for the Surfers Path Magazine. The eco-warriors are: James Pribram, a professional surfer, writer and environmental spokesperson; and Will Henry, founder of Save The Waves. The trip also included filmmaker Vince Deur, creator of the popular surfing film Unsalted, who will be producing a documentary series about their surfer-environmentalist adventures.
Upon arriving on Tenerife, the eco-warriors learned promising news: the government had just denied the hotels application for the artificial beach and seawalls. Unfortunately, before the victory could be celebrated a second proposal was submitted, this time by a private developer, who intended to build a marina in the same location. Henry and Pribram, along with Angel Lobo, the President of the Canary Islands Surfing Federation, met with officials in the Ministry of the Environment and made a strong case for the preservation of all surf spots on the island. The Ministry responded by promising to deny the marina proposal at La Enramada, and to consider promoting protected status for the remaining surf spots on the island.
The Ministry also expressed a desire to explore options for the removal or redesign of some of the seawalls in the Las Americas region, in an effort to restore some of the beauty lost along this part of the islands coast. They did express concern, however, that the loss of sand on the artificial beaches might have a negative impact on tourism, as the hotels with beach front locations would lose a valuable asset.
Henry presented the officials with the idea of using artificial surfing reefs to replace the seawalls, which could prove to be a win-win situation for both surfers and hotel owners alike. Artificial surfing reefs have been proven to act much like seawalls in their ability to dampen wave energy on the shore behind them, and in their effectiveness at preventing coastal erosion. The reefs could be built partially using the rocks from the existing seawalls, and would not only add beauty to the coast but add a new tourism attraction.
After the meeting, Henry felt positive that the Spanish government would explore the new technology. It's the most open-minded reception I have ever experienced from government officials, stated Henry. They realize the value of surfing, and the need to restore the natural beauty of the coastline. It's extremely encouraging. Pribram added, Their response was great, and if the government stays the path, it will mean even better things for the surfers and the economy on the island.