The first WSR in the UK inaugurated with celebration and commitment to protect over 30 km of coastline
On Friday, May 12th, the first World Surfing Reserve in the United Kingdom was dedicated in North Devon. As only one of twelve World Surfing Reserves designated across the globe, the inauguration sets into motion new and enthusiastic efforts to protect and preserve over 30 km of coastline.
The new North Devon World Surfing Reserve encompasses outstanding UK surfing destinations, including iconic breaks such as Croyde, Saunton, Woolacombe and Lynmouth among others.
In a speech, CEO Nik Strong-Cvetich of Save The Waves Coalition spoke to the unique attributes and the unified community of North Devon that helped the region receive the prestigious title of World Surfing Reserve. The official plaque and statue was revealed over Woolacombe beach, and a friendly surf competition between Croyde and Woolacombe finished out the official proceedings.
The momentous occasion was celebrated by Surfers Against Sewage, National Trust, AONB, North Devon Biosphere, Plastic Free North Devon, North Devon RNLI Lifeguards, Wave Project, Wave Wahines and other local organizations, in addition to representatives from Save The Waves Coalition.
Kevin Cook “Cookie”, co-founder of the North Devon World Surfing Reserve, spoke at the ceremony, saying “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”.
World Surfing Reserves (WSR) is a program led by Save The Waves Coalition (STW), which proactively preserves outstanding waves around the world by recognizing and protecting the key environmental, cultural, economic and community attributes of surfing areas.
“This stretch of surf ecosystems in North Devon perfectly represents what the World Surfing Reserves program works to protect,” said Trent Hodges, the Conservation Programs Manager at Save The Waves. “But WSRs are about more than collection of surf breaks. This program 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 or active protection of the surf and intertidal zone. This includes the fragile 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 will give the surfing community and others a voice in decision-making processes that affect North Devon’s surf ecosystem and some of the best beaches in the United Kingdom.
The dedication was additionally celebrated with a presentation of the key elements of a Local Stewardship Plan that will protect the coast into the future.
At the helm of the new Reserve, is the “‘Local Stewardship Council’ (LSC). An integral part of the WSR program, this community-led group will shepherd all stewardship projects of the reserve – including solutions to poor water quality, sewage pollution, plastic debris, and coastal erosion – as well as concentrated efforts to gain formal protection of the surf zone against direct threats, such as coastal development or dredging plans.
On the Local Stewardship Council is Yvette Curtis, who founded Wave Wahines, a surf and fitness club which provides affordable and accessible surf training to women and girls. Curtis stressed the wide reach of the program’s many potential benefits.
“Whether you are a surfer or a wild swimmer, surf lifesaver, stand-up paddle boarder, or just enjoying a walk along the wild coastal path, this beautiful, raw and rugged coastline intertwined with world-class surfing and waves has something for everyone. We need to protect what we love.”
With the spirit to protect and provide “waves for all forever”, North Devon honored its formal dedication and became an official World Surfing Reserve with community-wide and weekend-long celebrations, including the unveiling the official World Surfing Reserve plaques at various beaches, presenting the initial Stewardship Plan, and hosting a film screening of ‘Savage Waters’ alongside films by partners Dawn Patrol, DryRobe and Save The Waves.
“We don’t have to be bystanders, you and I can stand up and protect our important natural spaces,” said Adam Hall, co-founder of the North Devon WSR. “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 Save The Waves’ network of other unified WSRs: Malibu, California; Ericeira, Portugal; Manly Beach, Australia; Santa Cruz, California; Huanchaco, Peru; Bahia Todos Santos, Baja California, Mexico; Punta de Lobos, Chile; Gold Coast, Australia; Guarda do Embaú, Brazil; Noosa Heads, Australia; and Playa Hermosa, Costa Rica.