This year for World Oceans Day, we wanted to celebrate one of our favourite parts of the ocean: the nineteen-mile stretch of North Devon coastline that earlier this year was officially named a World Surfing Reserve.
Beginning at the fabled left-hand point break of Lynmouth, and continuing west via beloved waves such as Saunton, Croyde, Putsborough and Woolacombe, the North Devon reserve joins an illustrious list that includes the Gold Coast, Noosa, Malibu, Punta de Lobos, and Ericeira. It’s only the second place in Europe to be granted this protected status, and the twelfth place from around the globe.
Save The Waves Coalition, the environmental non-profit that runs the World Surfing Reserves program, describes this status as a means of identifying, designating, and preserving outstanding surf zones and their surrounding environments. Elsewhere, it has proved an invaluable tool in the ongoing struggle to protect “key environmental, cultural and economic attributes in coastal communities.”
But how does this work, and what will it mean for North Devon, its waves, and the people who enjoy them? Surfdome’s head of sustainability, Adam Hall, is a North Devon local and also one of the reserve’s co-founders. He recently met up with a few of the other key figures involved to discuss these and other questions.
One priority of the surfing reserve is making the coastline a more inclusive space. Wave Wahines, a surf club that meets every week at Croyde Bay, is the perfect embodiment of this ethos and the scene of many heart-warming, inspiring moments. Yvette Curtis, the club’s founder, is determined to make the sea more accessible to everyone – from underprivileged kids unable to afford lessons or equipment, to Syrian refugees who may have only experienced the sea as a barrier to be crossed or a trial to be survived.
Locals have long puzzled over the environmental factors that make Croyde Bay arguably the best beachbreak in the UK. What makes it tick, and why does it break so differently to the waves around it? Dr Kit Stokes of the University of Plymouth, who’s been studying the area’s surf ecosystem for years, has a fascinating explanation.
Plastic waste is a standard feature at almost every beach in the world these days, and the beaches of North Devon are no exception. Claire Moodie, the energy and driving force behind the organisation Plastic Free North Devon, explains where it all comes from and how we might start to think about getting rid of it.