On Sunday, June 12, Costa Rica's Playa Hermosa was dedicated as the newest World Surfing Reserve, designating Garabito's famous surf break as only one out of twelve such surf reserves across the globe and the first in Central America. Beyond providing support for important environmental issues locally, the dedication is a key moment for Costa Rican surf communities and marks the beginning of nationwide surf conservation efforts.
The momentous occasion was celebrated by local and international attendees, environmentalists, stakeholders and surfers alike: including the World Surf League (WSL), Save The Waves Coalition, Conservation International-Costa Rica, representatives from National Conservation Area System and Mayor Tobías Murillo taking part in the historic moment.
"As surfers, we have a responsibility to protect our favorite waves and shores," said Brisa Hennessy, WSL Championship Tour Surfer. "Playa Hermosa is one of the best waves in Costa Rica and is located in a biodiverse region that is in danger of pollution and development. This project will support conservation actions with local partners to help conserve this beautiful area."
World Surfing Reserves (WSR), a program led by Save The Waves Coalition (STW), proactively preserves outstanding waves around the world by recognizing and protecting the key environmental, cultural, economic and community attributes of surfing areas.
Playa Hermosa is well-deserving of its new title. Its coastline has a variety of consistent surf breaks - with over 15 spots from punchy A frame peaks, to rocky point breaks and rivermouth peelers - in addition to an incredibly biodiverse ecosystem that is home to over 61 threatened species and the renowned Punta Mala Wildlife Refuge.
Supporting local efforts is WSL PURE and the Surf Conservation Partnership (SCP). Through their support, one of the first WSR projects will address micro watershed recovery.
"At the WSL, we're committed to protecting the global ocean, and back in February, we announced a partnership with Surf Conservation Partnership to help us do just that," said Emily Hofer, Executive Director of WSL PURE. "It's incredible to see Costa Rica's Playa Hermosa dedicated as the newest World Surfing Reserve, which will ensure that this world-class wave and irreplaceable ocean and coastal ecosystem is preserved."
"Playa Hermosa is a perfect example of our World Surfing Reserve program," said Nik Strong-Cvetich, CEO of Save The Waves. "The local leadership and on-the-ground efforts of our Coalition partners to preserve their surf ecosystem is inspirational for other communities looking to protect their surfing resources nationally and globally."
Working with Save The Waves, a committed Local Stewardship Council (LSC) has put together a detailed plan of action, called a ‘Stewardship Plan', to further protect and support Playa Hermosa's surf ecosystem. Their goal is to tackle several initiatives around climate change adaptation, surf-oriented sustainable urban development, wastewater treatment and biodiversity protection.
"Becoming a World Surfing Reserve is not only a great honor and a celebration for us, it's also a call to action," said Laura Zumbado, Chair of the LSC. "We know how valuable our surf ecosystem is and its protection is in our hands. Local development will continue to grow, so we must advocate for protecting our waves and surrounding environment now."
The ongoing stewardship and preservation of Playa Hermosa also sparks a new era of surf conservation efforts in the Costa Rican region.
The World Surfing Reserve is a major launching point for the Surf Protected Area Networks program across Costa Rica under the Surf Conservation Partnership an alliance between Conservation International and Save The Waves. With Playa Hermosa as the blueprint, the two organizations will work with the Costa Rican government and local communities to protect critical ecosystems through surf across the country in the coming years.
"With the Surf Conservation Partnership, we are looking to build a new pathway to bring together local communities, tourism and ocean conservation. Strengthening this alliance between surfers, local actors and the government will help the blue economy thrive while ensuring our marine ecosystems remain healthy for future generations to enjoy," said Ana Gloria Guzman, Executive Director of Conservation International-Costa Rica.
Playa Hermosa will join the growing network of World Surfing Reserves across the globe including Malibu, California; Ericeira, Portugal; Manly Beach, Australia; Santa Cruz, California; Huanchaco, Peru; Bahia Todos Santos, Baja California, Mexico; Punta de Lobos, Chile; Gold Coast, Australia; Guarda do Embaú, Brazil; and Noosa Heads, Australia. North Devon in the United Kingdom was recently nominated and will be next to join the program.