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San Miguel surf break protected with landmark creation of Baja California’s first state park

Save The Waves Coalition and Pronatura Noroeste achieve approval for Arroyo San Miguel

In a historic moment for environmental and surf conservation, the first state park in Baja California, Mexico was officially approved, providing long-lasting protection for the iconic San Miguel wave alongside 67 hectares of green space. 

The local initiative spearheaded by Pronatura Noroeste AC, and joined by international nonprofit Save The Waves Coalition (STW), has been in the works for years. Today, the campaign to legally protect San Miguel becomes a reality.

Finally, a long overdue but celebrated action from a new generation of community leaders and local authorities to start preserving and protecting our most important beaches and surfing spots in Ensenada.

Ignacio Félix Cota

Pioneer and ‘Father of Mexican Surfing’

San Miguel is a culturally significant site and considered the birthplace of Mexican surfing. Formed by the sand and cobblestones at the base of the watershed, this classic wave remains one of the most beloved breaks in Baja California.

“San Miguel is a very special place for the local community and its legal protection goes beyond the wave,” says Mara Arroyo, the Surf Protected Area Network Manager for Save The Waves. “Our work at STW focuses on preserving the place as well as the wave – what we call surf ecosystems – so that the entire area is safeguarded as a whole.”

Following this concept of surf ecosystems, Arroyo San Miguel protects more than the wave that attracts local and international surfers alike.

It also preserves 6 kilometers of the watershed – a hub of biodiversity and a critical riparian ecosystem – safeguards drinking water for local residents, and provides a public greenspace for the community of Ensenada.

“The San Miguel Creek provides a unique place in Ensenada, where families can go to spend a weekend, learn more about the vegetation of the place and above all, protect and promote more places like this for the City of Ensenada,” said Gabriela Caloca, Coordinator of Water and Wetlands Conservation Programs at Pronatura. 

©Nacho Felix
© Jesús García
©Nacho Felix
© Jesús García

The idea of creating the first state park originated in 2008. At the initiative of the community, Pronatura Noroeste identified a state park designation as the best tool to protect the Arroyo San Miguel and pushed the agenda with the Secretary of Environmental Protection of the State of Baja California.  

Later, in 2014, it was reinforced by the declaration of the Bahía de Todos Santos World Surfing Reserve, a globally recognized program led by Save The Waves to protect world-class surf breaks and their surrounding coastlines.

Together, the two organizations wrote and collaborated on the necessary technical documents required to create the state park. Save The Waves also completed a Surfonomics report in 2014, revealing surf tourism brings hundreds of thousands of dollars annually to communities around San Miguel – demonstrating the economic importance of protecting the watershed.

A campaign to leverage public support was then launched, which included an online petition that amassed over 10,000 signatures and letters of support sent to the Governor of Baja California. 

San Miguel signals a positive turn for surf break protection in Mexico, as the global movement to protect surf ecosystems takes shape.

“This is only the beginning,” said Arroyo. “Save The Waves is continuing to develop and introduce surf conservation in areas all across Mexico. Our Surf Protected Area Network program hopes to replicate San Miguel’s victory with other communities who seek to protect their home breaks.”

Arroyo San Miguel will officially be dedicated in the following days.

Learn more about Arroyo San Miguel here

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