Surf conservation

Protecting world-class waves and vital marine ecosystems

 

Across the globe, thousands of the world's best surf breaks overlap with irreplaceable marine and coastal ecosystems.

Yet, these critically important places are facing unprecedented threats from unsustainable development, habitat destruction, pollution and climate change — the effects of which are felt firsthand by coastal communities and surfers.

 

Surf breaks across the world are home to:

Outstanding biodiversity

More than 75 percent of the world’s best surf breaks are in areas where highly biodiverse ecosystems like coral reefs, coastal forests, and mangroves are in critical need of protection.

Globally critical high carbon ecosystems

Coastal forest, mangrove, seagrass, and marsh ecosystems surrounding surf breaks store more than 950 million metric tons of carbon globally, equivalent to 10 percent of global annual energy-related emissions.

Surfing is an incredible force for conservation

Surfing generates 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 and surrounding ecosystems. As a result, surfing can support conservation at scale, helping to safeguard critical ecosystems and waves before they are lost.

Conservation International has joined forces with partners across the world to protect thousands of waves and surrounding ecosystems, through the creation of Surf Protected Areas.

Surf Protected Areas:

  • Empower local communities to protect irreplaceable natural areas with high biodiversity and high carbon ecosystems through legally enforceable regulations,
  • Support sustainable community development through businesses linked to surfing and conservation, and
  • Build the next generation of surfer-conservationists through surf conservation camps and classes, with a focus on gender and social equity.

This innovative approach to ocean conservation overcomes threats including irresponsible tourism development, deforestation, coral and sand mining, destructive fishing, plastic pollution, climate change and many others — so people and nature can thrive.

By the end of 2025, Conservation International will establish at least 50 Surf Protected Areas across the world that will protect over 150 surf breaks and transform the lives of tens of thousands of people.

Please join us:

 
 

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 gift or become a Surf Conservation Sustaining Member through a monthly contribution. Consistent contributions help us amplify our global impact by providing dependable support to protect world-class waves and vital marine ecosystems.

 
 

Where we work

We are establishing a global network of Surf Protected Areas with an initial focus on these priority geographies:

© Conservation International

OUR IMPACT

Between 2020 and 2023, we:

  • Established 23 Surf Protected Areas in Indonesia, protecting over 60 surf breaks and 80,000 hectares (197,700 acres) of coastal and marine ecosystems spanning three islands – Morotai, Sumba, and Biak.
  • Initiated 20 more Surf Protected Areas to be declared in 2024.
  • Empowered over 1,000 local youth (with a focus on gender equity) through surf conservation camps, classes and contests.
  • Expanded to Costa Rica, Peru, Brazil and Fiji.
 
© Esteban Delgado

The advantages of surf conservation

Demand

Surfing communities and governments are calling for this approach because it protects the waves they value, the conserves resources they depend on and supports sustainable economy development, 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

Surfing generates millions of dollars for local economies and visiting surfers are willing to pay for conservation. Surfing’s massive economic value motivates communities and decision-makers to protect coastal resources and waves in the long-term.

 

Our collaborators

© Prastiano Septiawan

Across the globe, there are thousands of places where the world’s best waves overlap with ecosystems that are critically important for marine and coastal conservation — these are places we simply cannot afford to lose.

Through Surf Protected Areas surfers get to protect the places they love and everyone who loves the ocean gets a new and powerful way to expand conservation around the world.

 
 

Contact info

Scott Atkinson
Senior Director, Surf Conservation
satkinson@conservation.org
+1-808-224-2679

 

Surf Conservation Advisory Board Members

We greatly appreciate the visionary people who helped to launch and continue to guide 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