The Inertia Contributing Writer
Here's a rendering of the artificial reef structure built at Narrowneck. We want one of these. Except a better one! Image: City of Gold Coast

Here’s a rendering of the artificial reef structure built at Narrowneck. We want one of these. Except a better one! Image: City of Gold Coast

The Inertia

Los Angeles’ beaches might be gifted truckloads of federal money thanks to a proposal to include them in the Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area. Here’s an idea for how to spend that loot: Build an artificial reef north of El Porto.

If our coast is going to be a recreation area, why not help us recreate on some macking A-frames? As we all know, the good lineups are crowded af. And – as we’ve written about – L.A. surfers kind of got screwed out of having an artificial reef there. Way back when, Surfrider made Chevron agree to build one after it fubared a decent sandbar, a scarce resource on our closeout-ridden coast. Despite good work by Surfrider to hold Chevron accountable, the reef didn’t work, it was removed, and surfers were left with diddly.

But the world is a vastly different place in 2016. One of California’s best waves is in Lemoore, 110 miles from the coast. Wave pools are popping up across Australia and Europe like Chick-fil-As in L.A. Not to mention, the Gold Coast just committed to installing five artificial surfing reefs to give drop-in artist Mick Fanning yet another place to burn his countrymen . If Kelly Slater can turn a water ski lake into tubing perfection, surely we can create a few more corners and makeable barrels in Smell Segundo or Dockweiler State Beach.

Granted, there is one problem: An artificial reef has never worked, “other than maybe a beached ship,” says Brad Farmer of National Surfing Reserves. Like the Chevron reef, the Gold Coast’s artificial reef experiment, Narrowneck Reef, has been a big disappointment. “It has not lived up to expectations, mainly because it sank further into the sand and is usually too deep for normal waves to break,” says Andrew Short, chair of National Surfing Reserves.

That doesn’t mean we can’t build a good reef. Farmer has a vision for making this happen. It involves organizing an international design forum and opening a global request for “university think tanks, corporate engineering firms, coastal societies” and other interests to submit proposals. And he thinks governments should help foot the R&D bill for next-level reefs.

If Congress eventually passes HR4871, the government is going to spend three years studying things like sea level rise and public access to figure out how to better manage our coast. If it’s serious about that, it should study the feasibility of putting in an artificial reef. The studies should take into account the surging popularity of surfing, the fact that we’ve lost natural waves over the years and that the understanding of how to make a good artificial wave has progressed (at least a little). Someone in Congress should get Slater on the horn right now!

And the Narrowneck one kinda works!

More about their project from Gold Coast government here:


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