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Oriente Salvaje, El Salvador nominated as next World Surfing Reserve

The 13th World Surfing Reserve would become the first in El Salvador and include two renowned surf breaks, Las Flores and Punta Mango

(April 16, 2024) The thirteenth World Surfing Reserve (WSR) site has been provisionally nominated by Save The Waves Coalition as Oriente Salvaje, El Salvador. 

“I hope Oriente Salvaje can achieve the World Surfing Reserve title so it can stay the green verdant paradise that it is and this dream becomes a reality,” said Bryan Perez, professional surfer from El Salvador and WSL competitor.

The announcement of the opportunity to become an official World Surfing Reserve sets into motion new efforts to protect and preserve Oriente Salvaje’s “surf ecosystems.”

Now a nominee, the region will undergo an intensive stewardship planning and certification process in order to be officially dedicated later this year. Upon completion of the designation process, the newest World Surfing Reserve would become the first in El Salvador and include two renowned surf breaks, Las Flores and Punta Mango.

The international designation recognizes not only these incredible point breaks, but a total of 19 kilometers of El Salvador’s diverse eastern coastline. The nominated World Surfing Reserve also contains some of the last truly wild tropical dry forests in northern Central America. 

“Oriente Salvaje has world class surf and is also surrounded by a lush biodiverse tropical forest. It is an absolute treasure,” says Trent Hodges, Conservation Programs Manager of Save The Waves Coalition. “We look forward to supporting the local efforts to protect this special place and work with the El Salvadoran government to officially designate and recognize Oriente Salvaje as the 13th WSR.”

The World Surfing Reserves program is managed and implemented by California-based Save The Waves Coalition, an international nonprofit organization dedicated to protecting surf ecosystems across the globe. The program was launched in 2009 and is comprised of 12 World Surfing Reserves spanning around the world including Malibu and Santa Cruz in California, Ericeira in Portugal, the Gold Coast, Manly and Noosa in Australia, Punta de Lobos in Chile, Playa Hermosa in Costa Rica, Huanchaco in Peru, Guarda do Embaú in Brazil, North Devon in the United Kingdom, and Bahía de Todos Santos in Mexico. 

The formation of each World Surfing Reserve begins in the community. The concept for the Oriente Salvaje World Surfing Reserve was founded by local organizations ADETCO, Sociedad Salvaje Salvadoreña, and Paso Pacifico. For years, these organizations have led conservation initiatives, instituted tourism sustainability standards, and led the effort to nominate the eastern region of Oriente Salvaje as a World Surfing Reserve.

“Oriente Salvaje is located within the UNESCO World Biosphere Reserve Xiriualtique – Jiquilisco (RBXJ), has strong components of quality and consistency of waves for surfing and has developed a great surfing culture and identity,” said Rodrigo Barraza, President of ADETCO and co-owner of Las Flores Resort. “It is a great opportunity and pride to be selected as a WSR to promote conservation as a critical path to success as a sustainable tourism destination, generating guidelines and stewardship that balance development pressure.”

The region itself is at a critical juncture with a rapidly developing coastline while possessing some of the most biodiverse intact ecosystems in Central America.

As the popularity of surfing has grown in the country, the Oriente Salvaje World Surfing Reserve aims to proactively protect their pristine coastline while balancing ongoing development pressure. With the government’s tourism sector targeting Oriente Salvaje as “Surf City 2”, the WSR will also work to ensure that the country’s growing love for surfing provides economic benefits to the local communities while protecting the natural environment and the life and waves it harbors.

“The Oriente Salvaje is home to some of Central America’s most charismatic and threatened wildlife. And this biodiversity contributes to a genuinely unique surfing experience. Visitors can spot species like the black-handed spider monkey and yellow-naped Amazon parrot moving between the forest canopies. They can also view breaching whales and nesting sea turtles at the beach,” Dr. Sarah Otterstrom, Executive Director at Paso Pacifico remarked. “This forward-looking initiative puts El Salvador at the forefront of surfing and conservation in the region.”

With only one World Surfing Reserve selected every year, the announcement of Oriente Salvaje’s new status comes after a competitive nomination period hosted by Save The Waves. Ultimately, the program’s Vision Council – a governing body of selected individuals from backgrounds in conservation, coastal science, and professional surfing – selected Oriente Salvaje’s application. 

“This nomination is only the beginning of the World Surfing Reserve designation process,” says Nik Strong-Cvetich, CEO of Save The Waves Coalition. “ We’re very excited to include Oriente Salvaje in our WSR program and get started together.”

The World Surfing Reserve will also serve as a pilot location for testing the world’s first parametric insurance for climate resilience at a surfing location in partnership with the Ocean Risk and Resilience Action Alliance.

To learn more about the Oriente Salvaje World Surfing Reserve, visit here

To learn more about Save The Waves and the World Surfing Reserve program, click here

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