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Approach

A miniscule proportion of the energy reaching the Earth as electromagnetic waves from the Sun, through a long series of links involving planetary waves, atmospheric waves, wind-driven waves and wave-wave interactions, eventually reaches the coast in the form of clean, surf-able swell. Surfers then tap into a tiny part of that energy to boost us along for a few seconds. Many surfers around the UK have dedicated a considerable part of their lives to the quest for more and more of that liquid energy.

However, ocean waves were not created for our benefit alone, nor are they some redundant appendage of nature, serving no apparent purpose in the grand scheme of things. Waves are a very important and necessary part of the workings of our planet.

Surfers have good reason for stopping other people destroying or degrading the waves. But the coastal developers, coastal engineers and politicians responsible for schemes which destroy or degrade surfing waves tend to find the 'intrinsic' value of natural things hard to understand. They only understand the concept of enjoyment if it is bought with money. However, if surfers want to persuade others not to ruin the waves, they need a stronger argument than just a surfing one.

But should we put a monetary value on a surf break? As soon as you put a specific value on a surf break, some people will start to imply that it is potentially for sale. Otherwise, why would you have put a value on it? This then will encourage coastal developers to perform cost-benefit analyses, whereby the value of a surf spot is numerically balanced against the potential income from some scheme that includes destroying that wave. For example, what would happen if we decided that a certain surf spot was worth, say, £10,000 a year, and somebody wanted to build a yacht harbour that would generate an estimated income of £15,000 a year but would destroy that wave in the process? Who decides what to do? Are the developers then in a position to 'buy' that wave from the surfers?

Surfers Against Sewage argues that it is more useful to take a broader approach and show that waves are important to coastal communities in four ways:

Environmentally

Waves form an integral and essential part of a naturally functioning coastline; interfering with waves could affect the physical, biological, geological and chemical stability of the coast - alter them and entire ecosystems could be damaged.

Economically

Surfers and other wave-lovers bring money into the local community through hotels, shops, petrol stations, competitions and much more, year round. Surfing, unlike most other tourist activities, continues throughout the winter, which gives it additional value.

Culturally

The UK's waves were first surfed in 1890. Many coastal areas have been defined and characterised by the existence of certain iconic waves and surf spots, Thurso in Scotland and Newquay in England for example.

Socially

Waves are the central thread to the social integrity of many coastal communities from Cornwall, England to Portrush in Northern Ireland.