Goodbye: the battle to protect Australia’s surf spots | Surfing
There’s a reason surfers like to keep their best breaks a secret.
For decades, surfers have made their way through little-known coastal towns – and in their wake come planners and developers.
When Clint Bryan bought his house 40 minutes north of Perth city, one consideration was paramount – it had to be close to his favorite surf spot.
And of course, his Kallaroo home is only a five minute walk to the Indian Ocean. The name of the suburb is a Noongar word which means “road to water”.
But by the end of this summer, the waves Bryan has built his life around will be gone as the beach is redeveloped for $ 252 million. Ocean Reef Marina.
The marina is in the Marmion Marine Park and will transform 1.5 km of coastline into shops, restaurants, moorings, a protected beach and new housing. Local State MP Emily Hamilton says he create “thousands of jobs” and inject $ 3 billion into the economy of Western Australia.
But it will also kill three surf spots – Mossies, Big Rock and Pylons.
Ocean Reef has been a surfing destination since at least the 1950s, when it was little more than sand dunes and beach huts, with just a trailer park nearby.
“It’s like we lose our playground and the basic waves we learned to surf,” says Bryan, a 43-year-old air rescue firefighter.
“It’s the end of an era and our group [Ocean Reef Artificial Reef] just wants the opportunity to keep the surf community alive in our area.
The fragile magic of the break
Sean Doherty, chairman of the Surf Rider Foundation advocacy group, says dozens of surf spots across the country are threatened by development or sand dune work.
“The pressure on the coastline is increasing,” Doherty says.
“For each surf spot that is in danger, it is the result of development nearby and it takes different forms.”
In some places, the amenities are similar to those offered for Ocean Reef.
On May 1, nearly 700 surfers rowed to protest the development of eco-cabins, a conference center and a restaurant on crown land near a surf spot called Farm in Killalea, south of Wollongong.
Opponents say the state-funded development will encroach on a national surfing reserve that was declared in 2009, although proponents of the development insist it will affect less than 2% of the reserve.
But Doherty says the most threatened ruptures are now Narrabeen and South Narrabeen on Sydney’s northern beaches, where construction began on a 7m high, 1.3km concrete seawall to save 49 properties, a club and parking lot built directly on the beach.
While the dike will protect homes from erosion and storm surges, it will also affect the flow of sand.
For waves to form, the movement of sand, which helps shape the seabed, is crucial.
Waves break when there is a reef or accumulation of sand underwater, making it shallow enough for the incoming swell to rise and form waves.
In a natural system, sand enters and leaves the sea or is carried by ocean currents.
But Doherty says dikes, houses, and vegetation increasingly anchor the sand to the shore, taking life energy from the waves.
“The magical qualities that make a good surf spot are quite ephemeral and quite easily disrupted and changed, often with development,” Doherty explains.
The foundation says other ruptures are also threatened by dike proposals, including at Wamberal on the central NSW coast and Byron Bay, nine hours north, where locals have been fighting the suggestion for decades. years.
Last year, authorities were forced to install emergency sandbags and shut down Main and Clarkes beaches in Byron, where erosion from natural processes, development of frontal dune systems and l Changing weather conditions have taken their toll.
Any further threats to surf spots in New South Wales, Queensland, Victoria and Western Australia come from climate change, overpopulation and water pollution, according to the foundation.
A multitude of advantages
In Australia, neither the state nor federal environmental laws protect waves.
Ana Manero, environmental economist at Australian National University studying surf economy, says the legal vacuum is a “wide blind spot”, but legislation is not the only way to defend surf spots.
“We don’t have environmental laws to protect Australia’s surf resources, but we have an economic argument,” Manero explains.
“Surfing brings a multitude of benefits, it makes places more pleasant to live in, it’s good for the local community, so the question is: when the waves are impacted, how will this loss of value be? explained? “
“It is crucial that we understand the real value of surfing before we lose the many benefits it brings, not only to the Australian surf community, but also to the hundreds of coastal towns where surfing underpins the economy and the local way of life, ”Manero said.
Manero hopes the surf research will help make better decisions when developments affect the waves.
“The problem for policymakers is that the ‘intangible’ benefits of surfing – such as mental health or social connections – are much more difficult to measure than jobs and retail sales – but I can tell you they translate into millions of dollars, ”she said.
Manero says protecting the waves doesn’t mean leaving the beaches untouched – there are many examples where the construction of groynes, jetties, or sand dredging have improved the quality of the waves.
At Snapper Rocks on the Gold Coast, a “superbank” unexpectedly formed after work to remove sand from the entrance to the Tweed River.
“During the planning process, if we could put a little intelligence into understanding how waves form and the benefits they bring, then we would have a better chance of improving the well-being of coastal communities,” Manero said.
“It’s difficult, but it is doable.”