Surf Protection
May 25 2011

Malibu Lagoon Restoration Project & Surfing

by Chad Nelsen

Since the late 1990s, a plan has been underway to restore the wetlands in the Malibu Lagoon. The Surfrider Foundation and our West LA / Malibu Chapter has been involved and supportive of this project since the beginning. In recent months controversy over the project has erupted with concerns about the approach being taken to restore the wetlands and also potential impacts the restoration project may have on surfing at Malibu's famed Surfrider beach. On May 20th, a San Francisco Superior Court judge issued a stay on the project through October 1st, which essentially delays the project for one year because the work can only be done during the summer months to minimize impacts to sensitive species.

Given the controversy surrounding the project and the importance of surfing at Malibu, we wanted an objective, science-based review of the proposed wetlands restoration project and possible effects on the surf. Further, the Surfrider Foundation wanted recommendations to help address issues associated with the location of the breach and erosion issues at the Adamson House. We hired ESA/PWA, a San Francisco-based environmental consulting agency with experience on issues related to coastal processes, inlet dynamics, engineering and surfing to conduct a review of the project. The Surfrider Foundation has worked with PWA/ESA in our efforts to protect surfing areas at Trestles and in Santa Cruz and trusts their experience, background and systems-based approach.

In summary the report states the following:

  • The relationship between the wetland restoration project and the inlet dynamics that influence the surf were not well studied but given the dynamics of the system, it is very unlikely that the proposed restoration project will have an adverse impact on surfing. Read more about the mechanics of Malibu from Surfline here.
  • There are several recommendations to the proposed project and the work being done to protect the Adamson House that could help direct the location of the inlet breach towards Third Point, which could improve surfing conditions.
  • In the longer term, a plan to influence the location of the breach towards Third Point could have multiple benefits, including improving surfing conditions, reducing erosion problems at the Adamson House, and ensuring continued tidal flows to the wetlands.

The PWA/ESA report is available here.

Read the Surfrider Foundation's summary and next steps based on the report here.