Spotlight: Save the Waves

Malibu Hamilton’s passion for the waves sparked our interest in learning more about the water at our doorstep, and what we can to do protect it. We have recognised that there are local, national and international organisations that are all dedicated to protecting the ocean and surf breaks in various ways.

A few weeks ago we had the opportunity to sit down with Nik Strong-Cvetich, the Executive Director of Save the Waves.

Save the Waves is an international not-for-profit organisation exclusively focused on the conservation of surfing coastlines on an international scale. Their vision is to create a world where coastlines are cherished and protected.

One of the key programs of Save the Waves is the World Surfing Reserves. World Surfing Reserves proactively identifies, designates and preserves outstanding waves, surf zones and surrounding environments around the world. Since it’s inception, there have been eight reserves established around the world. The most recent being the Gold Coast, which Nik and his team dedicated on March 8.

When a surf break and surf community is chosen as a World Surfing Reserve, Nik and his team immerse themselves within the community for one year before the surf break is dedicated and established as a World Surfing Reserve.

They work alongside a community appointed group to create a conservation management plan that can be presented to community members and government officials.

To become a World Surfing Reserve, an application has to be submitted to Save the Waves. There are certain criteria that must be met, such as the quality and consistency of the wave, wave variety and number of surfeable days throughout the year. However, it’s not just about the wave. The environmental characteristics of the town are also considered. Along with the culture, surf history and of course the local support behind establishing a surf break as a World Surfing Reserve.

During his time here, Nik noted similarities between Raglan and previously established World Surfing Reserves. He is confident that if someone were to apply to establish Raglan’s surf break as a World Surfing Reserve, there is a good chance we could be chosen. Any one person or group is able to fill out the application, and the Save the Waves team does their best to assist along the way.

“By protecting the surf, you’re also protecting the culture,” Nik stated.

Because the Save the Waves team is quite small, only one World Surfing Reserve application is chosen per year.

From my time spent with Malibu for the Surf Column, I have learned that the health of a surf break has a major impact on the community. And my conversation with Nik only reaffirmed this.

Three of the factors Nik has recognised as the main threats to a surf break/community include: inappropriate coastal development, sea level rise and trash and marine debris. One of their goals as an organisation is to help create a platform for the community to work together to combat these threats and further develop and set in place long-term plans to assist in managing these threats, similar to our own Raglan Naturally.

Thanks to the work of local surfers such as Malibu Hamilton and organsiations such as eCoast and WEC, we have evolved as an environmentally conscious town. However, there is still plenty that needs to be done. But with the inspiration of Save the Waves and the World Surfing Reserves, and the help of local groups such as Lost Waves and Te Ngaru Roa aa Maui, we have numerous opportunities to come together to do what we can to insure our coastline and surf breaks are protected for years to come.

“It’s about being proud of your place, proud of your community,” Nik said. Although Save the Waves is based in California, it is clear that his passion for the ocean and for surfing is worldwide.

Find out more about Save the Waves, via savethewaves.org.

Post-script: Nik was actually visiting New Zealand on his honeymoon with his lovely new wife Sooni. Sooni fell in love with Raglan when they first stayed here, so they decided to end their trip here as well. We’re grateful to the both of them for taking time out of their personal trip to chat with us.

Karamea Puriri

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