Aligned with the 2022 Margaret River Pro, WSL surfers gave back to the Margaret River coastline by helping to plant native species and restore coastal dunes when they traveled to Western Australia this month.
The World Surf League teamed up with local conservation groups Nature Conservation Margaret River Region, Line in the Sand, Great Southern Reef, and SHISEIDO during the 2022 Margaret River Pro from April 24 to May 4 with support from the Shire of Augusta Margaret River and the Margaret River Coastal Residents Association.
Visitors know and love the Margaret River region - tucked in the rugged south-west corner of Australia - for its incredible coastline, amazing surfing breaks, spectacular granite and limestone cliffs, unique wildflowers and orchids, towering forests, and marine life.
However, increasing use of the coast by the growing number of residents and tourists, together with other threats associated with climate change, are placing significant pressures on the fragile coastal region. That's why the World Surf League has decided to help put the spotlight on caring for the coastline of this much-loved location on surfing's elite tour.
Before the Margaret River Pro started, a group of athletes from both the men's and women's tour took part in a hands-on coastal conservation activation event. The world's best surfers were joined by youngsters from the local Cowaramup Bay Boardriders Club, who lent a hand with the dune brushing and planting. They replanted native coastal species and undertook some vital dune brushing, which involves laying down branches across sections of dune to prevent people walking in the area and to protect vegetation whilst it establishes.
"The area we're helping to restore is just south of the contest site at Gas Bay," said Nature Conservation Margaret River Region general manager Drew McKenzie. "It's a stunning area with some quality reef breaks, but it's under pressure from its popularity with surfers. It's so good to see surfers initiating the restoration of this area".
"We are so stoked to see the professional surfers and local groms work together to leave a positive impact on the environment. It's such a good example of the culture of custodianship that we are trying to promote across the Margaret River region and beyond. We all have a responsibility to give back to the coastline that gives so much to us all."
Nature Conservation is the peak environmental and conservation non-for-profit group in the Margaret River region, working across a range of focus areas including the coastline, rivers and waterways, environmental education, threatened species and bushland management. Its vision is to protect and preserve the healthy and biodiverse natural environment on which we all depend. Established in 2002, it works to design and develop effective and sustainable solutions to key environmental challenges facing the Margaret River region.
Mr McKenzie said Nature Conservation is just one of several organizations working collaboratively to ensure the region's coastal ecosystems are both protected and restored. Nature Conservation works closely with the Line in the Sand philanthropic group. LITS's works to inspire the community to value, respect and care for the coast, and to engage them in restoration activities to improve the condition of coastal ecosystems for the enjoyment of future generations. LITS director Howard Cearns explains "Line in the Sand had its genesis in talks with Surfing WA and WSL so it is great to be restarting activities and have the Pro back. LITS supports Nature Conservation through school planting programs, cultural connection tours and other in the field coastal rehabilitation. There is great momentum and co-ordination building between stakeholders given the urgency required to act, educate and drive awareness individually and as a community around conservation and climate change and having global platforms such as professional surfing initiating programs is fantastic."
Julian Kruger LITS Director said "After being involved in the Climate Action Summit with Surfing WA and WSL a few years ago, there was an intersection with what Howard (Cearns) was discussing with WSL PURE around an environmental partnership in the region. Line in the Sand was formed shortly after and the organization has since gained federal charity status. LITS is now focused on designing and funding programs with Nature Conservation and other community groups in the region so it's great to see WSL back and reconnecting with the environmental challenges we have."
Another key partner in the activation was the Great Southern Reef project, which is run by an independent team of science, media and education professionals working to promote the recognition, stewardship and long-term health of Australia's southern kelp forests.
GSR research scientist Sahira Bell explains: "The Great Southern Reef is a huge, interconnected kelp forest ecosystem that spans across the southern half of the country. It's a global biodiversity hot spot, has critters found here that are nowhere else in the world, and its rocky reef systems are what makes these world class waves possible. The surfers are literally surfing straight over the top of this epic but under acknowledged ecosystem."
"Local impact and restoration efforts are also vital for the ongoing health of the GSR. What many people don't realize is that we and these ecosystems are more connected than we think. What we do locally here today, will have much broader positive impacts on the reefs that stretch all across this coast."
2022 marks the first time the WSL and its surfers have teamed up with Nature Conservation Margaret River Region and the Great Southern Reef and it builds upon numerous other successful environment and conservation projects with community groups at WSL contest sites including in Portugal and Hawaii.
Learn more about the community partners who supported the activation via the links below or find your local conservation group in your area: