- WSL / Manel Gaeda

Big wave riding has a lot to do with hope and belief. There's preparation, sure: Physical training, meticulous equipment checking, accurate teamwork, careful planning and a load of risk assessment. But in the end, when facing some of nature's most menacing and challenging manifestations, there's active hope that everything works out and all previously outlined groundwork will pay off and turn fear into exhilaration, danger into fun.

Portuguese big wave rider, João Macedo, knows a lot about risk management and the excitement of success. Macedo, a former top 5 WSL Big Wave surfer and multiple XXL WSL Big Wave Awards nominee, understands quite well that, when it comes to life-threatening challenges, one must accept the risk and stress involved. Even come to enjoy it! Basically, the more effort is put on thorough planification and proper grounding, the less luck and chance will play a role.

Advancing Seaforestation In Portugal
For the MEO Rip Curl Pro Portugal presented by Corona, We Are One Ocean teamed up with Hope Zones Foundation and SeaForester to host a kelp restoration workshop. Participants built deployment structures to plant kelp and engaged with youth participants from Peniche Surf Clube in an ocean literacy session with Monitoramento Mirim Costeiro.

Austrian entrepreneur and investor, Moritz Siedel - Macedo's founding partner in Hope Zones Foundation (HZF) - complements and understands this mindset with his fair share of business acumen to maximize impact and go for it at the right moment with his investments. Bold moves measured by calculated chance in the volatile world of start-up companies share a very similar way of thinking with that of big wave surfing.

WSLOO Portugal Yago Dora and Miguel Blanco support a water quality testing activity alongside youth from Peniche Surf Clube and Monitoramento Mirim Costeiro. - WSL / MANEL GAEDA

Hope Zones Foundation's (HZF) long-term mission was developed by Macedo and Siedel, with support from their Board of friends and family members, with a valuable contribution from Lisbon-based University, Nova School of Business and Economics (NOVASBE). Their mission encompasses a wide and ambitious program, ranging from ocean conservation led by an inclusive process that embraces all stakeholder communities, to waste management actions, promotion of sustainable architectural projects, ocean literacy workshops, and branding of local businesses through environmental certification programs. All these goals are focused around key geographic zones of the Portuguese coastal area: Nazaré, Peniche, the Mafra-Sintra-Cascais region, Aljezur and the Azores.

With financial support from WSL PURE, and global WSL One Ocean partners SHISEIDO and YETI, HZF's is currently implementing a kelp planting pilot program on Nazaré's artificial reef system.

Hope Zones Foundation x SeaForester Kelp Restoration Map Site map highlighting the kelp planting pilot program on Nazaré's artificial reef system. - WSL / Hope Zones Foundation

Kelp forests are highly productive ecosystems and a measurable and impactful way to stimulate marine biodiversity, CO2 absorption, and the exploration of alternative food and protein sources. By using native algae species (Laminaria ochroleuca), Hope Zones will be promoting the recovery of ecosystems currently in decline within the Nazaré area, resulting into many ecological and social benefits for the local community. New bases of income for local fishermen are being explored, in a model that can be applied globally by coastal communities around the world.

Although located at Nazaré, the submerged reef area is not exactly at the bottom of the famous line-up where Macedo and his fellow surfers - including HZF ambassadors Maya Gabeira, Miguel Blanco, Nic Von Rupp and Eric Rebiere - charge into those notorious aquatic behemoths. It sits further down the coast, just south of the fishing harbor the big wave crew uses as their headquarters. Made out of hollow cement blocks submerged at about 40-70 feet from the surface back in 2010, this structure is part of a municipality-sponsored program to increase the local marine biodiversity using artificial reefs as habitats for local fish species. Pushing the municipality's original plan even further, now it's also serving as a farming ground for seaweed and kelp.

Hope Zones Foundation x SeaForester Kelp Restoration Kanoa Igarashi alongside Shiseido volunteers team up to build deployment structures with advice from Jan Verbeek, Scientific Manager at SeaForester. - WSL / Manel Gaeda

This intricate and highly innovative process needs a lot of laboratorial and field research as well as technology development. Therefore, financial support is vital. "Being appointed as a recipient of the annual WSL PURE grant program is an invaluable help towards achieving our goals," states Moritz.

The initial schedule developed by SeaForester - HZF's scientific partner, dedicated to replanting the ocean and restoring seaweed ecosystems - foresees a first cycle of planting kelps in early to mid April 2023, using two different deployment techniques. One consists of six structures featuring a floating buoy connected to a cable and a steel chain attached to the artificial reef to carry juvenile kelps, previously grown in lab by SeaForester. The other technique uses biodegradable line to place the growing juvenile kelps directly on the reef to create a kelp canopy.

Hope Zones Foundation x SeaForester Kelp Restoration Pictured here is one of the kelp restoration structures featuring a floating buoy connected to a cable and a steel chain attached to the artificial reef to carry seedlings, previously grown in lab by SeaForester. - WSL / Manel Gaeda

Rounding the scientific support to this pilot program, CoLAB +ATLANTIC, a not-for-profit R&D organization will provide knowledge by monitoring of the seaweed forests via numerical models, remote sensing, data science and artificial intelligence technology. Complementing the scientific research, a group of local fishermen and tourism operators will also monitor the seaweed buoys, again providing the project with a significant social component, something strongly embraced by the Nazaré municipality.

Hope Zones Foundation x SeaForester Kelp Restoration Pictured here is a rendering of the kelp restoration structure. - WSL / Hope Zones Foundation

"It's like successfully riding a giant wave", analyzes João Macedo. "This is such an inspiring moment for us at Hope Zones, because it validates our belief in change through surfing, business, science, all the while getting the local community involved", describes the big wave rider, before concluding: "One needs to take risks in order to succeed. In our case, success means achieving social and environmental wins. On a personal level, these are just as important, if not more, than all the amazing moments we live as pro surfers riding those beautiful waves. Big obrigado to WSL PURE and Patagonia for supporting us."

Hope Zones Foundation x SeaForester Kelp Restoration Caroline Schio of Monitoramento Mirim Costeiro leads an ocean literacy session for youth of the Peniche Surf Clube and community volunteers. - WSL / Manel Gaeda

To learn more and get involved:

WSLOO Portugal Miguel Blanco supports a citizen science activity alongside youth from Peniche Surf Clube and Monitoramento Mirim Costeiro. - WSL / MANEL GAEDA

As surfers, the ocean is our playground and our stadium. Getting involved in protecting and conserving the ocean is critical for us today and for future generations. Tell us what you are doing us by posting on social media with the hashtag #WSLOneOcean and tagging @wsl and @wsloneocean in your posts. You can learn more and get involved at WSLOneOcean.org.

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