Santa Cruz surf breaks named World Surfing Reserve: Seven miles of coast from Natural Bridges to Opal Cliffs included in distinction


Posted: 03/04/2011 01:30:40 AM PST

Even if they don’t surf, most Santa Cruz County residents know that Steamer Lane and Pleasure Point draw surfers from all over the world.

On Thursday, the two popular surf breaks were named as part of a surf zone that should attract even greater global recognition.

More than 100 surfing sites from 30 different countries meet nearly all of the criteria needed to be named a World Surfing Reserve by the Save the Waves Coalition.

However, Santa Cruz is just one of four surf zones located around the world that has been determined to meet all of the criteria.

Thursday morning outside the Santa Cruz Surfing Museum, representatives from the Save the Waves Coalition officially announced that a Santa Cruz surf zone had been formally approved as a World Surfing Reserve.

The designated surf zone encompasses seven miles of coast extending southward from the western reef breaks at Natural Bridges State Beach to Opal Cliffs just east of Pleasure Point. It includes popular spots such as Steamer Lane, Pleasure Point, the Hook and Shark’s Cove.

Jim Littlefield, the Santa Cruz/Northern California director for Surfers’ Environmental Alliance, estimated a minimum of 21 surfable breaks are included in the dedicated zone. He said the zone extends from the high-tide line out to the first surfable break along the designated coastline.

“This is basically an honorary designation,” said Littlefield, who worked on the region’s nomination. “This doesn’t have a body of law behind it regulating surfing actions. However, it focuses our attention on the need to protect our natural resources on the coast, including surf breaks and the unique conditions that allow them to exist.”

Santa Cruz County Supervisor Mark Stone, Santa Cruz Mayor Ryan Coonerty and Littlefield were just a few of the speakers addressing the crowd at the press conference, which was co-hosted by the city of Santa Cruz and the Santa Cruz Surfing Club Preservation Society.

For Stone, also a member of the state Coastal Commission, the coalition’s decision to dedicate the Santa Cruz zone as a World Surfing Reserve made perfect sense.

“Santa Cruz is a leading example of all of the criteria used to make that decision,” Stone said. “This is global recognition for what Santa Cruz means to the surfing world.”

The four components that make up the World Surfing Reserve criteria include: quality and consistency of the wave or surf zone; environmental characteristics of the area; surf culture and history of the area; and local community support.

Dean LaTourrette, executive director of the Save the Waves Coalition, said that many sites have met the first three components in full, but it is the fourth requirement that has proved to be the biggest obstacle.

“The World Surfing Reserve initiative was launched in December of 2008,” said LaTourrette, a member of the World Surfing Reserve executive committee.”

In 2009, 125 sites had been submitted by 34 countries.

“Initially, we came up with a short list of 50 sites on the first three criteria alone,” LaTourrette said. “But when we started reaching out to communities, some offered support that was high and others that was nil.”

Malibu was the first site dedicated in October. Plans are to dedicate approved zones in Manly Beach in Sydney, Australia, and Ericeira, Portugal, along with Santa Cruz later this year.

Although the dedication is strictly an honorary one, Stone said he believes it will have an impact.

“This gives us an additional resource,” Stone said. “When we have land-use decisions to make in Santa Cruz County, I hope that those decisions respect what this recognition means to the rest of the world.”