Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Eco-Warriors help to save La Enramada
during mission to the Canary Islands

Representatives from Save the Waves Coalition returned February 8 from a diplomatic environmental mission to the Canary Islands, succeeding in an effort to protect and possibly enhance the island’s surfing environment. During the ten-day trip sponsored by XS Energy Drinks, the two surfing emissaries focused on the wave known as La Enramada, a point break on the island of Tenerife that was threatened by a coastal development proposal. The mission proved more successful than any surfer would have thought possible.

The ‘eco-warrior’ series was initiated last year as a regular feature article in the Surfer’s Path, the world’s first 100% green surf magazine. The eco-warriors are: James Pribram, a professional surfer, writer, and environmental spokesperson; and photographer Will Henry, who is also founder and executive director of Save the Waves Coalition, a non-profit that preserves surf spots globally. The trip also included filmmaker Vince Deur, creator of the popular surfing film ‘Unsalted,’ who will be producing a documentary series about the surfer-environmentalist’s current and upcoming adventures.

The construction project threatening La Enramada was originally proposed by the Hotel Riu Palace in 2006, which intended to create an artificial beach in front of the luxury hotel. The sand would have been transported from another part of the Canary Islands, and seawalls constructed for sand retention. Leading up to the trip, Save the Waves Coalition worked closely with the Canary Islands Surfing Federation in an attempt to persuade the Spanish government to deny the proposal. The southwest coast of Tenerife has already seen the destruction of numerous surf spots in the past three decades due to similar artificial beach projects, especially in the tourist zone known as Las Americas, where over eight seawalls currently exist. Numerous artificial beaches already dot the area, and the project at La Enramada was seen not only as unnecessary, but also as an additional blight on a stretch of coast that already is severely scarred by coastal armament projects.

Upon arriving on Tenerife, the eco-warriors heard promising news: the government had just denied the hotel’s application to construct the project. Unfortunately, before the victory could be celebrated, a second proposal was submitted on the heels of the first, this time by a “private developer” who intended to build a marina in the very same location. Henry and Pribram, along with Angel Lobo, the President of the Canary Islands Surfing Federation, met with officials in the Ministry of the Environment and made a strong case for the preservation of all surf spots on the island, including La Enramada. The Ministry responded by denying the marina proposal at La Enramada, and to consider promoting protected status for the remaining surf spots on the island.

The Ministry also expressed a desire to explore options for the removal or redesign of some of the seawalls in the Las Americas region, in an effort to restore some of the beauty lost along this part of the island’s coast. They did express concern, however, that the loss of sand on the artificial beaches might have a negative impact on tourism, as the hotels with beach front locations would lose a valuable asset.

Henry presented the officials with the idea of using artificial surfing reefs to replace the seawalls, which could prove to be a win-win situation for both surfers and hotel owners alike. Artificial surfing reefs have been proven to act much like seawalls in their ability to dampen wave energy on the shore behind them, and in their effectiveness at preventing coastal erosion. The reefs could be built partially using the rocks from the existing seawalls, and would not only add beauty to the coast, but become a new tourism attraction.

After the meeting, Henry felt positive that the Spanish government would explore the new technology. “It’s the most open-minded reception I have ever experienced from government officials,” stated Henry. “They realize the value of surfing, and the need to restore the natural beauty of the coastline. It’s extremely encouraging.”

Pribram added, “Their response was great, and if the government stays the path, it will mean even better things for the surfers and the economy on the island.”

For more information, visit www.savethewaves.org, or send an email to info@savethewaves.