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Beach Preservation Policy

Ratified by Surfrider Foundation Board of Directors, April 17, 1999. Updated July, 2018


The Surfrider Foundation recognizes that beaches are unique coastal environments with ecological, recreational and economic value. The Surfrider Foundation further recognizes that beaches are a public resource and should be held in the public trust. As human activities, coastal development, and sea level rise increase, the need for preservation of beaches becomes ever more apparent.

“Hazards” occur when naturally dynamic coastal processes encounter static human development, and when humans interfere with marine and littoral systems. Coastal hazards are also associated with extreme weather events exacerbated by a changing climate. The Surfrider Foundation is working proactively to promote conservation and responsible coastal management that avoid creation of coastal hazards or erosion problems. The Surfrider Foundation supports coastal research and science-based management of coastal resources to promote sustainable, long term planning and preservation of beach environments.

This policy is general in nature; the Surfrider Foundation recognizes that every specific case must be evaluated in the context of its local setting.


Beaches are often perceived as separate habitats, but in reality are small parts of much larger coastal ecosystems. These systems include watersheds, wetlands, and nearshore marine environments.

Beaches are dynamic in nature and change on multiple temporal and spatial scales. These changes are therefore difficult to predict with certainty.

Beaches are narrowing due to coastal armoring, sea level rise, and increased storm activity caused by climate change. 


The Surfrider Foundation hereby advocates actions to promote long term beach preservation for the benefit of the public.

Coastal areas that are free of development should be protected via proactive means that do not interrupt coastal processes. These include:

  • Enforcement of public trust rights that attach to beaches and beachfront lands
  • Establishment of beach setbacks based on current and historical erosional trends and projected sea level rise
  • Restoration of natural sediment transport processes in coastal watersheds 

In areas where erosion threatens existing coastal development, the Surfrider Foundation advocates appropriate long-term solutions that maximize public benefit. These include:

  • Updating land use plans to avoid rebuilding in ‘harm’s way’ and improve coastal management practices and development standards 
  • Restoration of existing dunes and utilizing natural materials to build living shorelinesthat can withstand increased erosion and future sea level rise.
  • Landward retreat of structures from dynamic shorelines

Where landward retreat is not feasible, beach nourishment** projects may be considered, on a case by case basis, as viable alternatives for short-term beach preservation. Beach nourishment projects should be coordinated with regional sediment management plans, designed to prevent negative impacts to coastal and marine wildlife and recreation, and monitored to track any potential impacts to coastal and marine wildlife and recreation.

Under no circumstances does the Surfrider Foundation support the installation of stabilization or sand retention structures along the coastline. Such structures can protect existing coastline development but have no place in beach preservation.

** For the purposes of this policy, 'beach nourishment' is defined as: the placement of clean sand of the appropriate composition and grain size on the beach or within the littoral environment. Under no circumstances is the incorporation of sand retention devices of any form to be construed as included within this definition.