Getting (sustainably) barreled. Photo: Francisco Santos

The Inertia

The town of Peniche, Portugal just took a massive leap toward sustainability. Besides playing host to the WSL circus every fall as a stop on the Dream Tour, Peniche can add another notch to its belt – it’s the world’s first destination to be benchmarked for sustainable surf tourism.

What does that mean exactly? Let’s unpack.

Some time ago, Dr. Jess Ponting, Director of San Diego State University’s Center for Surf Research, and Carl Kish founded STOKE Certified – an organization dedicated to evaluating tourism operators, resorts, and hotels in surf and snow for sustainability. The mission? To cut through BS claims of sustainability and provide consumers a list of operators that are actually sustainable or have undergone a benchmarking process and are working to reach full sustainability. No marketing gimmicks.

Now, Peniche is the first destination to be assessed. In other words, this goes beyond a single resort and incorporates buy-in from all relevant stakeholders with government support.

According to a STOKE Certified press release, “The assessment benchmarked Peniche against the new Stoke Surf Destinations standard of 84 criteria, which was built on the foundation of the Global Sustainable Tourism Council’s Destination Criteria and adapted to the unique sustainability challenges that coastal communities and surf tourism destinations face.

“Following the site visit, STOKE Certified developed a roadmap to certification report that outlines strategies for closing the compliance gaps identified in the benchmark in order to improve sustainable destination management practices and achieve certification in the next few years.”

“Surfing has put Peniche on the global tourism radar and completely transformed our economy over the past decade,” said Peniche mayor António José Correia. “We are proud to be the first surf destination in the world to take this important step toward sustainability and look forward to working with STOKE on the path to certification.”

“Peniche is taking control of its destiny as a surfing destination and by adopting STOKE’s Surf Destinations standard has positioned itself on the cutting edge of surf destination management,” said Dr. Jess Ponting. “Beyond surf break protection and surf school regulation, STOKE’s standard involves: developing organizational infrastructure to diversify the tourism base by incorporating other natural and cultural wonders of Peniche; developing strategies for improving the quality of the surf tourism while respecting the needs of local surfers; and, facilitating innovation in developing sustainability best practices across transportation, accommodation, and resource management that complement the great work the municipality is already doing.”

Mayor Correia and the Instituto Politécnico de Leiria (IPL) were integral in driving the Municipality of Peniche toward certification. And the hope is that Peniche’s leadership in this first step toward sustainability will inspire other municipalities around the world to follow suit.

For more information about STOKE Certified check out their website here.


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