What is a World Surfing Reserve?

Have you ever looked at something and thought; ‘I hope they never change this’? Maybe you even thought that while standing on top of Ribeira d’Ilhas looking out over the ocean, seeing the waves break over the sand, rocks and reefs beneath them. Well, if that’s the case: good news, because Ericeira is a World Surfing Reserve.

But what is a so called World Surfing Reserve (WSR)?

The quick answer to this would be that it’s a program that protects waves, surf zones and surrounding environments. Because of the label, it recognizes and protects key environmental, cultural, economic and community spots of that surfing area.

The idea for these kind of programs came from Brad Farmer. An Australian surfer that was convinced that some areas should be protected for their “places of intrinsic environmental, heritage, sporting and cultural value to a nation”. Brad first started a program together with Andrew Short in Australia back in 2005. It was called the ‘National Surfing Reserve’. It was basically the same as the WSR organization does now, but focussed on national spots in Australia. Eventually they partnered up with the ‘Save the Waves Coalition’ and launched the ‘World Surfing Reserves’ program in 2009, with Malibu Surfrider Beach being the world’s first World Surfing Reserve in October 2010. Ericeira was the second one to be named and is therefore the first, and still the only, European World Surfing Reserve. Ericeira was named a reserve in October 2011.

Ribeira d’Ilhas, World Surfing Reserve Ericeira

If you’ve ever been to Ericeira, there might be a chance to guess why it is a World Surfing Reserve, but a quote from Save the Waves describes it perfectly:

“The character of the Ericeira coastline is defined by rocky cliffs punctuated with beautiful little bays and secluded beaches. The diversity of waves in the area, along with their various degrees of difficulty, offer consistent opportunities for all levels of surfers, from beginners to professionals. Ericeira is also home to numerous surf schools, in addition to regional and international surf competitions. A vibrant marine ecosystem, an established yet burgeoning surf culture and a community centered around ocean pursuit and enjoyment are the perfect setting for successful management of coastal resources.”

And of course, we could not agree more with that! So this means that there is a local stewardship council in Ericeira, just like every other spot has its council. These councils seek to maintain and guarantee the healthy marine abundance of local waters and foster the continued responsible enjoyment of local coastlines for all users. A cool fun fact is that one of Ericeira’s WSR ambassadors is Portuguese surf legend Tiago Pires.

At the time of writing this (April 2020) there are 11 World Surfing Reserves in the world:

  • Malibu, California (USA)
  • Ericeira (Portugal)
  • Manly Beach (Australia)
  • Santa Cruz, California (USA)
  • Huanchaco (Peru)
  • Bahia Todos Santos, Baja (Mexico)
  • Punta de Lobos (Chile)
  • Gold Coast (Australia)
  • Guarda do Embaú (Brazil)
  • Noosa (Australia)

You might think that 11 isn’t that much if you look at all the surf spots there are in the world. And that’s true. But it is not that easy to get named a World Surfing Reserve. Here you can find a page from the organization that explains the process of how to become a reserve in detail. Below is also an interesting video that explains the in’s & outs:

So it is safe to say that we are extremely proud that Ericeira is part of the World Surfing Reserves family! The biggest question remains: When is the birthplace of surfing, Hawaii, finally becoming a World Surfing Reserve?