Wednesday, November 7, 2007

Eco-Warriors Conquer Northern Spain

The Eco-Warrior team of Henry and Pribram traveled to Asturias, a region of Northern Spain, in October 2007, to support fellow eco-warriors that are trying to protect the waves on the Spanish coast. Accompanied by Dean LaTourrette, currently executive director of Save the Waves Coalition, and Vince Deur, their trusty filmmaker, they traveled from Henry's home in Central Portugal northwards on a classic Euro surf trip. The group met good weather and friendly locals on the journey up the coast, finally making it to the home of Dr. Tony Butt, the famous surfing scientist who pens articles for the Surfer's Path, among others.

Tony toured them around the local spots and introduced them to the local surf association's leaders, Hugo Santos, Gonzalo Iglesia, and photographer Juan Fernandez. On their first night in Villaviciosa, the American boys were treated to a dinner at a cidreria, a traditional apple cider bar, where the waiters stand on pedestals and pour from up high into pint glasses below. Here they developed (in addition to a decent cider buzz), a strategy for the days to come.

Over the next few days in Asturias, the eco-warriors appeared on three different television news programs and in two newspapers. They spoke about the value of surfing - from both an economic and a social standpoint - while making sure to mention the wave in Mundaka Bay, which was hosting the annual WCT event at the time.

Mundaka Bay, for those who don't know, had a wave that disappeared a few years ago after a massive harbor dredging project destroyed the sandbar at the river mouth, over which the wave breaks. The disappearance of the wave caused a rift in the local economy, which didn't know how much it had come to depend on surfers and the money spend until it was almost too late. This year marks the triumphant return of the sandbar at Mundaka, and the return of the Mundaka Pro - but a bitter taste has been left behind for residents of the town.

Two other projects on the north coast of Spain threaten prime surfing locations. In Gijón, a harbor expansion and seawall are slowly encroaching on neighboring coastline, on which five surf spots will be buried. Gijón promises to be, upon its completion, the largest port in Spain. In nearby Rodiles lies a wave often described as "Mundaka's Little Sister" due to the vast similarities between it and its more famous brother. This wave is jeopardized by a harbor expansion and dredging project - a combination that sounds all too familiar to the surfers of this coastline.

"Surfers understand what many non-surfers don't, that these places are rare beauties and should be preserved, no matter what," said Pribram. "It would be like filling Yosemite in with concrete," added Henry.

The Eco-Warrior project hopes that in the future, there will no longer be a battle about whether or not surf spots are valuable, as they will be protected regardless. Until then, we will continue to do our best to spread the message around the globe.