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Why Protect Waves?

British surfing waves are under threat from a growing number of activities around our coastline that can hamper or have long term devastating impacts on some of our most prized surfing beaches. This includes coastal developments, pollution, and restricted access.

  • Waves are under threat from 3 sources: new structures and developments, pollution including sewage and litter, and restricted access.
  • Multiple surf breaks around the UK are currently under extreme threat with many more subject to lesser, but escalating, degrees of threat.
  • No specific laws exist in the UK to protect surf spots.
  • According to the water industry itself, the number of Combined Sewer Overflow (CSOs) around the UK is around 31,000. Many of these are completely unregulated.
  • In the 10 weeks since the 2012 bathing season started this year SAS have issued over 30,000 text messages warning water users about the 416 individual raw sewage discharges across just 62 beaches as part of the Sewage Alert Service.
  • The UK's world-class south coast surf spot Broad Bench is off limits for up to 228 days a year.
  • The amount of marine litter found on UK beaches has increased almost two-fold in the last fifteen years.
  • A plastic bottle may persist in the marine environment for more than 450 years if left on a beach.
  • Waves are important to coastal communities in 4 ways: economically, environmentally, culturally and socially.
  • In the UK, there are 4 types of surf spots: beach, reef, point break and river mouth.
  • There are over 500,000 regular surfers in the UK.
  • In a 2007 Defra survey, the economic value of the surf retail sector only was estimated at £200million annually.
  • At a cost of over £3million, the artificial surfing reef development at Boscombe, Dorset has been estimated to generate £3million of direct income with an additional £10million of image value. This is the valuation of a spot that currently only creates poor quality, irregular waves, highlighting the value and exceptional conditions which create the UK's best surfing waves.
  • The overall turnover from the surfing industry in Cornwall (£64 million annually) was about 20% more than the sailing industry (£52 million annually), and twice as much as the golf industry (£32million annually). Results also showed that the average visiting surfer spends about 8.5% more in Cornwall than the average visitor.

Waves are a very important and necessary part of the workings of our planet, transferring the sun's energy around the globe. Surfing beaches and waves also have a deep personal value to surfers and surfing communities around the UK. However, in the UK there is currently no specific legal protection for surfing waves or any assurance that stakeholders, including surfers and surfing communities in Wales, Northern Ireland or England, will be consulted fairly on activities threatening their existence.

Other sports and activities such as walking and sailing are formally recognised, represented and consulted during many new development processes. Other areas of outstanding beauty and countryside sites are also protected. But politicians, developers and the wider public in general have very little knowledge of the value, uniqueness and finite nature of surfing waves and landscapes, swell corridors prevailing weather conditions and other conditions creating good quality waves.

We are also seeing growing evidence that the Government is showing a bias towards coastal intervention, together with a stance increasingly in favour of developers. Politicians typically give only cursory consideration to the impacts on local coastal communities, despite the fact that the waves can be central to their existence.

Surfers Against Sewage (SAS) is campaigning to increase public awareness and develop a greater understanding amongst policy makers that waves are a vital part of the fabric of many UK coastal communities, and it is essential that wave-centric communities can amplify their concerns so that irreversible damage is not done to our waves and surfing beaches.