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What does it mean to protect a wave? Protecting wave access

July 07 2010 | Beach access, Jim's Blog,
by Jim

This series explores the the question "what does it mean to protect a wave?" My last post looked at the relationship between two elements of wave protection, two legs of the stool so to speak. The more I thought about this the more I saw the need to talk about how critical the distinct components of waves are to this dialog. The three-legged stool metaphor, although not perfect, works for me as it visually suggests that if you don't pay attention to one leg the whole thing doesn't stand up. The next few posts will explore the "wave components" leg. This post specifically looks at beach and wave access. Lets start with the definition of a wave, what do you think of when you think of waves? Do you think of Pipeline? Your local break? Now what if that wave, the one in your mind, existed but you couldn't get to it because there was no access? The list of great waves with very limited access is a notable one... The Ranch... Tavarua (until a few days ago). These are iconic, surf-before-you-die waves. These waves are mechanically intact (some would even label them "perfect") and yet they are inaccessible for most. Unfortunately this issue is coming up again and again all over the world. Check out the thread on Cardon Surf Resort in Mexico. Regarding access, Surfrider has a very clear stance. We believe coastlines, beaches and waves should be accessible to the general public. Another way to say this is we don't believe waves should be purchasable (privatizable) commodities. Our strategy for putting this belief into action is through coastal activism. Surfrider's organizational model is based on empowering locals. We provide tools and expertise to help local, grassroots volunteers fight access issues. We've fought and won beach and wave access cases numerous times in the past few years. Remember the Ramones song "Rockaway Beach"? It was off limits to surfers until just a few years ago. Maybe you're thinking, "access isn't a big deal." But if you think that, I can almost guarantee you don't live in Maine. The state of Maine is in its own category with only 7% of the coastline publicly owned (and thus accessible by the public). That is the reality that Maine lives with every day of the week. Surfrider believes this is fundamentally wrong, we believe beaches... all beaches... should be accessible. Likewise, we believe all waves should be accessible. I was at a Surfrider chapter meeting in Eastern Long Island not too long ago and a mom stood up and shared a story. She shared that her son paddled out at a public beach access and paddled parallel to the shore so he could surf where the wave was breaking. He never set foot on sand other than public access sand. While she was taking pictures of him, he surfed in front of a private beach club. Someone called the police when they noticed him out in the ocean in front of their club, and the boy was actually ticketed by police. In a similar story, a group of surfers in Long Island were ticketed for surfing the tip of Montauk, kicking off the "Free the Montauk 8" campaign. These are situations where we engage. Some property owners think they own the beach in front of their house, even when the law says otherwise. David Geffen in Malibu thought that, and the situation ended with another beach access victory for us. Protecting a wave includes protecting access to the wave. We believe beach and wave access is a right and we'll use any tool we can think of to fight to protect waves, one access at a time.
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