National Surfing Reserves: Our Best Resort for Surfspot Protection
Brad Farmer is on a whirlwind tour of the world's best resort towns. In the last two weeks the founder of National Surfing Reserves has visited San Sebastian, Biarritz and he's currently holed up in Phuket. The first two destinations were serious business, being the shared locations of the recent Global Wave Conference. Phuket however, was a fortunate result of the QANTAS strike, and it was from Thailand's waveless resort town – while sipping, I imagine, a banana daiquiri - that he spoke to me about the matter of surfspot protection.
The Global Wave Conference was an international conference that sought to identify threats to surfspots and strategise against them. Threats were identified as being predominantly pollution and also development in its many guises. As Brad told me, these threats are allowed to occur, "largely because the concerns of surfers are not taken seriously enough and the economic value of waves are not fully factored into decision making."
Although people from crowded, urban beaches may disagree the fact of the political matter is that surfers are still a fringe group. "Most surfing nations," as Brad says, "have yet to tell their story to decision makers." What is required is more influence.
Accordingly, one strategy suggested at the conference was to define a surfer as "everyone and anyone who uses the surf zone for recreation" and not just those who ride a board. There's power in numbers and casting the net wider will provide economic, social and political leverage to the issues at stake. Until that happens he believes surfers "will remain isolated from meaningful inclusion when waves are threatened or destroyed."
Although it was an international conference Brad makes it clear that Australia is in a better situation to the rest owing largely to Australia's large coastal populations and outdoors lifestyle. Because of this Australian beach users are already accounted for in any development that effects the coast.
"Australian surfers," Brad says, "enjoy a unique and powerful position in planning. Australia is the first nation to ever include 'surfers' and 'surfing' in law through National Surfing Reserve – and that has made us the envy and model for dozens of surfers around the world."
National Surfing Reserves (NSR) and World Surfing Reserves (WSR) were identified at the conference as the two solutions international surfers can use to prevent or stymie threats to surfspots. They have become the primary templates to ensure surfspots have the best chance of protection. Furthermore, the solutions don't necessarily have to fall under the NSR banner; Brad points to Hawaii where Governor Linda Lingle recently passed surfing reserves into law as an example of how the NSR model is being replicated.
After the conference, Brad, as ever, was moving onwards and upwards. He convened a meeting of major stakeholders - at least most of them, Surfrider weren't present - and the group signed a Memorandum of Understanding to form an 'International Surfing Communities Commission' (ISCC). The aim of the ISCC is for all parties to work together to conserve surf spots, waves and surfing culture at a regional, national and international level.
It may sound like more red tape but it's being tied into a very neat and attractive bow. Brad plans to take the ISCC to UNESCO in Paris and present a case for surfing sites to be included in the UNESCO natural heritage roster. Imagine seeing Angourie or Margaret River sitting alongside The Great Barrier Reef or the Ningaloo Coast on UNESCO's World Heritage roster - Brad is hoping to make that happen. But for now, he's got a daiquiri to attend to...