Surf Conservation

Protecting world-class waves and vital marine ecosystems


Across the globe, there are thousands of locations where outstanding surf breaks overlap with irreplaceable marine and coastal ecosystems. Many of the world’s best waves are surrounded by highly biodiverse ecosystems — including mangroves, seagrass and coastal forests that are also critical repositories of carbon and which must remain intact to help fight climate change.

Across the globe, more than 75 percent of the world's best surfing waves are located in areas that are critically important for marine and coastal conservation.

This creates near limitless potential for surf protected areas that combine the legal protection of marine ecosystems and sustainable community development.

Yet, the health of the ocean and coastlines around the world is deteriorating due to unchecked development, habitat destruction, pollution and climate change — the effects of which are felt firsthand by coastal communities and surfers.

With surfing rapidly growing in popularity globally, surfers are a major force for conservation. Surfing now generates over US$ 60 billion a year and is enjoyed by more than 35 million people across the globe – people who are deeply connected to the ocean and passionate about protecting their favorite surf spots. As a result, surfing can support conservation at scale — safeguarding critical ecosystems and waves before they are lost.

Conservation International has joined forces with partners across the world to transform conservation by mobilizing surfing communities to protect irreplaceable places that have outstanding waves and are biologically diverse with carbon-rich marine and coastal ecosystems.


Support Surf Conservation

For everyone who loves the ocean, surf conservation is a powerful new way to protect it.

Join us by making a one-time individual gift or becoming a sustaining member. Monthly contributions by sustaining members help us amplify our global impact by providing ongoing support to expand our initiatives and protect world-class waves and vital marine ecosystems.


Our approach

We work with local communities and governments to create legally enforceable networks of “Surf Protected Areas,” which promote the protection of ecosystems surrounding world-class surf breaks. Surf Protected Areas directly address threats, including destructive fishing, deforestation, coral and sand mining, plastic and other pollution, unsustainable development and climate change — helping nature and people to thrive.

By 2025, Conservation International and our partners in surf conservation will:

  • Protect over 120 waves and surrounding reefs, seagrass, mangroves and forests by establishing 40 Surf Protected Areas in a global network across Asia, the Pacific and Latin America
  • Improve the lives of tens of thousands of people by developing sustainable blue economies — including establishing small businesses that are linked to conservation and surfing.
  • Support youth (with a focus on girls and young women) to become the next generation of surfer conservationists through surf conservation camps, classes and contests. These programs help build critical life skills — including self-confidence, civic pride and responsibility, conservation capacity and entrepreneurship — that are critical to a prosperous future.
  • Implement sustainable tourism programs with a focus on community-centered, environmentally responsible surf and nature tourism.
  • Demonstrate to decision-makers the massive economic contribution that surfing makes to local economies and the critical role it can play in conservation.
  • Sustain the Surf Protected Areas by creating sustainable financing mechanisms, such as recurring government appropriations and conservation fees, that visiting surfers pay to support long-term implementation.
© Esteban Delgado

Surf protected areas have massive advantages for expanding conservation

Demand: Surfing communities and governments are calling for this approach because it protects waves that they value, conserves resources that they depend on and offers opportunities for a sustainable blue economy, including responsible tourism.

Speed: Surfing communities are deeply connected to the ocean, know that it is threatened, are motivated to conserve it, and are asking for our support — all of which makes the process of establishing surf protected areas move quickly.

Sustainability: Healthy coastlines and high-quality waves have immense social and economic value. Studies show that surfing generates millions of dollars for local economies and that visiting surfers are willing to pay for long-term conservation of surf breaks and nearby nature. This massive economic value motivates communities and decision-makers to protect their coastal resources and waves in the long-term.

© Prastiano Septiawan
© Conservation International/photo by Prastiano Septiawan

Our collaborators

Save The Waves Coalition

Save The Waves Coalition is an international nonprofit organization that works in coalition with diverse organizations dedicated to protecting surf ecosystems. Bringing over 20 years of experience and technical expertise, Save The Waves works closely with Conservation International to establish Surf Protected Area Networks in the priority areas of Costa Rica, Indonesia, Peru, Brazil, and Fiji.

The World Surf League (WSL)

For the past several years, we have been privileged to partner with the WSL, professional surfing’s official governing body, aligning to its WSL One Ocean campaign and its nonprofit partner WSL PURE. WSL One Ocean is a global initiative aimed at protecting the ocean to preserve the future of surfing for generations to come. The WSL has supported our projects in Playa Hermosa (Costa Rica), G-Land (Indonesia), and Saquarema (Brazil).

University of California Santa Barbara (UCSB) Bren School of Environmental Science & Management

The University of California Santa Barbara (UCSB) Bren School offers environmental graduate programs that empower students to develop comprehensive, data-driven solutions to today's critical environmental problems. We are grateful to have worked closely with cohorts of students in the Master of Environmental Science and Management program to advance surf ecosystem conservation and refine the methodology we use for analyses that inform our prioritization of sites for Surf Protected Areas.

University of California Los Angeles (UCLA) Institute of the Environment and Sustainability (IoES)

We are proud to collaborate with the University of California Los Angeles (UCLA) Institute of the Environment and Sustainability (IoES) and the Anderson School of Management. Based in one of the world’s epicenters of surfing in Southern California, this world-renowned university is lending its academic expertise and business acumen to strengthen our surf protected area initiatives.

Konservasi Indonesia

Konservasi Indonesia is Conservation International’s main implementing partner in Indonesia. Based on a strong foundation of science, partnership, and fieldwork, Konservasi Indonesia supports communities and organizations to conserve nature and biodiversity for the wellbeing of Indonesian people.

Indonesian Locally Managed Marine Area Foundation (ILMMA)

ILMMA empowers coastal communities to manage their marine areas with a focus on learning and capacity building, monitoring and data collection, diversified livelihoods, and environmental education. Over the last 20 years, ILMMA has reached over 300 coastal communities across Papua, Maluku, and North Maluku provinces in Indonesia. ILMMA partners closely with Konservasi Indonesia and Conservation International to establish Locally Managed Marine Areas as part of our Surf Protected Area Network in Indonesia.

Instituto APRENDER Ecologia

Instituto APRENDER Ecologia’s mission is to promote action for the protection of natural resources and rational economic development. APRENDER brings over 20 years of experience in coastal conservation in Brazil, including working with surfing associations and other grassroots organizations to protect surf ecosystems. APRENDER is now partnering with Conservation International-Brazil to develop a national Brazilian Surf Reserves Program.

​Contact info:
Scott Atkinson, Senior Director, Surf Conservation, Conservation International’s Center for Oceans. For more information, contact us.


Surf Conservation Advisory Board Members

We greatly appreciate the visionary people who helped launch this initiative. These advisory board members are generously offering their advice, engaging their friends and colleagues, and provide critical funding and support.

Sarah Argyropoulos
Nico Argyropoulos
Scott K. Atkinson and Ashley Kleckner
David Bauer
Kristina Brittenham and Jesse Sisgold
Joe Chrisman
Justin Havlick

Tom Larkin
David Joshua Levy
Randy Sinquefield and Laura Bolton
Shannon and Bryce Skaff
David Swift
John Swift and the Mycorrhizal Fund
Brad Warga