WSR Application Process

The pathway to becoming a World Surfing Reserve.

World Surfing Reserves is a partnership between Save The Waves and local communities.

Here you will find information on how to apply, criteria and evaluation, and how sites are implemented once approved. STW will work in partnership with local communities throughout the world during each one of these steps and is committed to a streamlined, straightforward and transparent process.

2024 Submission window: May 15th -August 15th
Application Overview

Applying to become a World Surfing Reserve may be straightforward but it requires significant work from local communities desiring their wave or surf zone to be designated and implemented as a WSR site.



Letter of Inquiry Submitted


Letter of Inquiry Reviewed


Applicant invited to submit full proposal


Vote on Application


Site Approved or Not Approved


Sites are evaluated on a combination of the criteria below, so in certain instances areas that score very high in one category and lower in another might still qualify and be accepted. Conversely, sites that score extremely low on one of the criteria might not be accepted despite ranking high on others. Additionally, applications for sites that don’t provide sufficient documentation or evidence regarding the various criteria might be delayed or asked to resubmit an application at a future time.

A globally significant surf spot or outstanding series of surf breaks

Unique environmental characteristics with clear avenues to protect them

A rich surf culture and history

Strong community support and capacity

Priority Conservation Area


Before beginning the application process, please take the time to understand the World Surfing Reserve program, its commitments and what it means for your community. Review the Frequently Asked Questions PDF linked below.

Application Process In Detail

Step 1. Submit a letter of inquiry

If you are interested in your break or area being designated and implemented as a World Surfing Reserve, you must a submit a letter of inquiry that is no longer than two pages. In this letter, please include the surf ecosystems and area for consideration, as well as brief summary of the quality and consistency of the waves; unique environmental characteristics; surf culture; and community support for the designation of a WSR.

Email: wsr@savethewaves.org

Regular mail:

Save The Waves Coalition
Attn: World Surfing Reserves
849 Almar Ave
Suite C #163
Santa Cruz, CA 95060 USA

If sending via email and you do not immediately hear back, please be sure and call us (+1-831-426-6169) to confirm that we’ve received the email.

Step 2. Response to letter of inquiry

Once received, we will confirm receipt and the letter will then be evaluated by Save The Waves Coalition.  We will then either invite submittal of a full application or a denial notification will be sent within three weeks of receiving the letter of inquiry.

Step 3. Submit a WSR Application

If the proposal meets the minimum World Surfing Reserves criteria, we will ask for a full application. The application will be sent by PDF and the submitting party will need to complete and send the finalized packet to wsr@savethewaves.org

In the application, the proposal must highlight how the location meets the WSR criteria.

WSR eligible waves and surf ecosystems are evaluated and chosen based on the written criteria below and any additional information requested in the application.

Save The Waves staff will thoroughly review each application and work with the submitting party for any additional information to ensure the application is complete.  Once the application has been thoroughly reviewed and has been updated by the submitting party based on Save The Waves review, it will then be evaluated for potential eligibility as a World Surfing Reserve and reviewed by the Vision Council.

1) Quality and Consistency of the wave(s)

2) Environmental Characteristics

3) Culture and surf history

4) Governance capacity and local support

5) Priority Conservation Area

Step 4. Vote on WSR Application

The WSR Vision Council will vote on received applications deemed complete based on the criteria above. Voting currently occurs once a year every October. The WSR Vision Council will select one applicant site from the pool in a competitive process, announcing the approved site towards the end of the year.

Step 5. Response to WSR Application

Notification of acceptance or denial of the application will be sent via email or through postal mail if necessary. At the present time, only one site is selected each year. Applications for locations that are not selected are eligible to be considered in subsequent years.

If you have any additional questions, please email us at wsr@savethewaves.org or use the contact form below for an easy submission.

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