After more than a decade of entanglement in bureaucratic red tape, a new law protecting every quality surf spot has been instated in Peru.
The “Ley de Rompientes,” or Law of the Breakers, protects surfable parts of the Peruvian coastline from development. Waves and the surrounding areas given the designation of “inalienable property of the state” are now regarded, in the government’s eyes, as important pieces of natural heritage.
After it was drawn up 2000, the law was almost lost for lack of a system for the registration of breaks. When a World Surfing Reserve was opened at Huanchaco in October of 2013, the government listened to the Federation of Peruvian Surfing and organized a structure that enabled the law to work. On December 8th, the President of Peru, Ollanta Humala, signed the legislation.
“Waves take years, perhaps hundreds of thousands of years, to form,” said Carlos Neuhaus, President of the Federation of Peruvian Surfing to Magicseaweed.com. “… we only want to have an effective legal mechanism to help us protect our waves,” he continued. “It’s very easy to damage a spot; it’s almost impossible to reinstate or recuperate one.”
Peru’s history has been rife with stories of developments ruining surf breaks. Many claim that La Herradura’s perfection was dulled by the construction of a coastal road in the early ‘80s. “For many years, we have witnessed the destruction of that which we love,” said Neuhaus in the same interview. “The contruction of groynes and other structures below fifty meters of the tide line irreversibly alters sea floors, disrupts the natural environment, and shatters the main attraction of the region.” In 2004, the wave at La Herradura was saved from a proposed marina development by an international campaign after opponents of the development cited that the economic value of the wave to the local community outweighed that of the proposed marina.
Although the fight against coastal development has been an uphill battle, it has seen its fair share of successes due, in large part, to the tireless efforts of local initiatives and groups like Save the Waves. The new law will even the playing field, if only a little.
Surfing has been a catalyst of sorts for many to become coastal watchdogs in Peru. The Peruvian Navy played an important role in the passing of the legislation, and several congressmen offered a helping hand.
President Humala has been working hard with environmentalism in mind. Since his election in 2011, he’s introduced free solar power to two million citizens and banned the cultivation of GMOs. But despite his contributions, there are still problems with Peru’s developing infrastructure. Huanchaco, in particular, is facing an immense trash problem. According to a Save the Waves report, the local government in Buenos Aires green-lighted the dumping of waste directly onto beaches.
“Every day municipal dump trucks travel along the dirt road out to the beach at Buenos Aires, back up to the Pacific Ocean, and repeatedly empty their loads directly onto the coast,” said the report. “Over the years they have literally built small mountains of trash and debris along their coastline, which is exposed to powerful swells year-round.”