The point break in San Mateo, Ecuador is under threat from a proposed fishing port which national authorities and private investors plan to locate a port directly over the surf spot. Save The Waves Coalition and Ecuador's Surfing Federation are joining forces to convince the country's fishing industry and national fishery authorities that surfing and fishing can coexist on San Mateo's legendary beach without the construction of a large port directly over the surf spot. We advocate relocating the port's location eastward and away from the point where the waves break.
Moving the port location would benefit all parties by achieving the following:
- protect the world-class wave at San Mateo;
- assist the burgeoning local surf economy and diversify local economic resources by continuing to attract surf tourism to the area;
- avoid extreme erosion caused by the new port's cement walls & breakwaters located in an area of wave activity;
- avoid pollution of coastal waters popular for surfing and swimming;
- avoid sedimentation of the new port by locating away from a nearby river mouth.
The point break at San Mateo acts as a natural trap of sand whose source is the nearby river. The proposed port location would act as an unnatural sand trap of the river's sediment and as a result the new port would quickly fill up with sand, rendering it useless or requiring constant expensive dredging.
Furthermore, coastal "scouring" of natural sandy beaches is worsened when artificial hard structures - such as this port's planned cement breakwaters - are placed on the beach. Natural sand buildup to protect the beach is then lost.
Save The Waves encourages the government of Ecuador to follow its National Surfing Federation's observations and recommendations, gathered from years of experience on the beach in San Mateo, and move the port facility to a less contentious area where it can be enjoyed by surfers, tourists and fishermen.
July 2011 Update
Despite the efforts of Save the Waves and the Committee “Salvemos la Ola de San Mateo SOS”, the San Mateo project has been completed by the Ecuadorian government. This Committee was formed with Ecuador’s Surfing Federation and local surf club Playa El Murcielago, with the unique goal of protecting the wave.
A large marina was built for the local fishermen. However, all the efforts put into this project convinced local authorities and the President of Ecuador, to relocate the marina about 600 meters to the west from its initial planned location. This action essentially helped to somewhat preserve the length of the wave, making the final ride only 50% of what is was. Interestingly though, this infrastructure has caused the wave to now break from the jetty to create a well-defined right that barrels. Lefts are also an option, but the ride is shorter. Local groms are starting to increase in numbers, and their surfing skills are developing.
Unfortunately it’s not all good news from San Mateo. This jetty has created rapid sedimentation, creating a new beach, which has increased the number of people visiting San Mateo. Increased tourism has lead to more trash left on the beach as well as other pollution as San Mateo did not have the proper infrastructure to handle large amounts tourism. Stewardship programs of the beach and ocean will be crucial to preserve this important Ecuadorian resource.
San Mateo’s experience, along with others, illustrates the importance of taking active part of the protection of our natural playgrounds. Therefore, the Surf Club Playa El Murcielago is developing a social environmental project called “EcoPlayas Ecuador”.
Ecoplayas Ecuador is an environmental community that arises from the need to educate and encourage the population to take an active role in protecting and sustaining our natural sports fields: our beautiful beaches.
To start, Ecoplayas Ecuador is signing agreements with local authorities of Manta (City Hall, Port Authority) and private companies to sort and recycle garbage in El Murcielago Beach (15 minutes away of San Mateo). This is anticipated to be completed by the end of this year. Additionally, Ecoplayas Ecuador will deliver environmental lessons through the Surf-School.
El Murcielago Beach will serve as a pilot, with the intention to duplicate this model to our others surfing points of Manta City: San Mateo, Santa Marianita, San Lorenzo, and San Jose. At San Jose, one of Ecuador’s best surf spots, they have organized a Quiksilver Tube Riding Contest to increase enthusiasm for surfing and protecting surf spots.