Coastal Protection May Affect Best Surfing Waves

A recent study in the Journal of Coastal Research indicates that coastal protections are needed to counteract erosion, deposition, weather, and direct hydraulic action. However, these measures often have a negative effect on the wave quality that attracts surfers.

Coastal protections, including seawalls, jetties, and beach nourishment, can create unridable or dangerous waves, reduce wave frequency, or remove the surfing spot altogether.

The authors of the study surveyed several surfrider groups, including The Surfrider Foundation’s U.S., Australian, and European chapters, the British Surfing Association, and several environmental groups with interests in surfing regarding the wave quality and crowd levels before and after coastal protections were put into place. Of the 30 surfing spots studied, 18 experienced a reduction in wave quality.

“The desire to control nature is also played out in surfing because the surfer attempts to control the power of the ocean by riding on the crest of a wave,” author Nicholas Corne says.  As more people flock to the coast to attempt to harness this power, even more coastal protections will be needed.

The results of the survey indicate that the reduction in wave quality caused by the attempts to control erosion can lead to a reduction in crowd levels. As fewer people visit the coast, local economy may suffer.

The article is titled “The Implications of Coastal Protection and Development on Surfing” (Vol. 25 [2] 427–434).