The term “World Surfing Reserve” might not be a distinction every surfer completely understands. What happens to a surf spot or region once it earns the title? What’s the benefit? Who decides so? And what do they all do to make that determination? Of course all of these questions are also pieces of the more important “why should I care?”
The first World Surfing Reserve wasn’t established until 2009, when the Save the Waves Coalition gave Malibu’s perfect peeling rights the title. Since then we’ve seen six more stretches of coastline across the globe join that club. So in the grand scheme of things this is all still pretty fresh, with little time to sit back and acknowledge what kind of impact becoming a World Surfing Reserve will actually have on our favorite waves. The tangible results of Save the Waves’ work with World Surfing Reserves are still coming together, with three different case studies the organization has been able to establish legal protection of spots thanks to their WSR designation. So still, why should we care? I imagine the simplest answer to that is to say if the ocean dies, we die. If the ocean is sick, literally and metaphorically, so are we.
In Baja, Mexico Save the Waves has been able to use the World Surfing Reserve title to coordinate with local government and protect 46 acres of coast near Todos Santos. Since Huanchaco, Peru became a WSR in 2013 Save the Waves has brought to life the Law of the Breakers, which is now a federal law protecting the bathymetry around surf spots, preserving them in their natural state and keeping the waves as nature gives them to us. And in Chile Save the Waves and Patagonia have raised almost half a million dollars to launch an organization specifically designed to protect Punta De Lobos. Becoming a World Surfing Reserve clearly has its perks, and it’s pretty fascinating to see that the whole process can start with something as simple as a group of people sitting around a table, discussing the historical, cultural and environmental significance of our most recognizable and beloved waves.