- WSL / Jarrah Lynch

Arriving at popular surf breaks on Wadawurrung Country near Djarrak (Bells Beach) on Australia's iconic Great Ocean Road, surfers have their eye on one thing; the swell.

While the ocean is a surfer's playground, it's the forgotten dune systems that sit behind the beaches that play an important ecological role and are a defence feature of the landscape.

Dune systems provide a first line of defence against coastal processes through supporting native vegetation to bind and build sand, with this vegetation also providing food and shelter to local insects and small mammals. Sand dunes are also time capsules housing significant cultural values that connect the present to the past.

Collaborating In the Name of Dune Health
For the #RipCurlProBellsBeach, WSL is joining Jan Juc Coast Action, Wadawurrung Traditional Owners, Great Ocean Road Coast and Parks Authority, and Surf Coast Shire to support restoration efforts on Wadawurrung Country near Djarrak (Bells Beach) to prevent erosion.

Erosion is one of the biggest challenges facing beaches along the Great Ocean Road on Australia's south-eastern coast, where the prevailing current starts at Cape Otway and continues east along a diverse and winding landscape.

Although erosion is a naturally occurring coastal process, climate change is changing the severity and frequency of storms which is driving increased erosion in hot spots along the 240-kilometers stretch of coast. This is placing ecological, cultural and community values at risk.

So when the opportunity presented itself for partners, community volunteers, and surfers to get their hands dirty in restoration efforts near the home of the Rip Curl Pro Bells Beach in Torquay, they jumped at the opportunity.

WSL One Ocean Bells Scott Hives, Conservation Supervisor at Great Ocean Road Coast and Parks Authority helps to lead a restoration project for volunteers, community partners, and surfers. - WSL / Jarrah Lynch

In partnership with local land managers the Great Ocean Road Coast and Parks Authority, Traditional Owners of the land Wadawurrung Traditional Owners Aboriginal Corporation, volunteer environmental group Jan Juc Coast Action, and the local Surf Coast Shire Council, volunteers grabbed some tools and helped remove Marram Grass from the dune systems.

The removal of these invasive species creates the space for indigenous species such as Pigface (Carpobrotus rossii), Knobby Club-rush (Ficinia nodosa) and Hairy Spinifex (Spinifex sericeus) to be reintroduced into the foredune and incipient dune systems.

WSL One Ocean Bells WSL Championship Tour surfers Sally Fitzgibbons and Lakey Peterson join community partners to support restoration efforts. - WSL / Jarrah Lynch

It's important work for the southern coastal regions of Australia where less than 25% of pre-European native coastal vegetation remains.

Great Ocean Road Coast and Parks Authority Conservation Supervisor Scott Hives explained the positive impact of reintroducing indigenous species into the dune system.

"Indigenous species such as Pigface, Knobby Club-rush and Hairy Spinifex gradually return incipient dune zones to a low-lying angle and as the energy comes in from the ocean it is dissipated up that slope," Hives said.

WSL One Ocean Bells The removal of Coast Tea Tree and Marram Grass, both introduced species to the area, will encourage indigenous species to be reintroduced to the foredune and incipient dune systems to dissipate the energy of the ocean as it moves towards the high tide mark. - WSL / Jarrah Lynch

"Species such as Coastal Tea Tree and Marram Grass change the dune system resulting in what we call ‘cliffing'. This is where the swell comes in and hits the straight edge, gouging the dune and creating an unstable environment which is susceptible to further wave erosion and subsequent coastal recession. Over time that leads to a deterioration of our dune systems," Hives shared.

The restoration work in Torquay is part of the WSL One Ocean global initiative aimed at inspiring the surf community to protect our one ocean to preserve the future of surfing. The program has seen surfers contribute to environmental programs at Championship Tour locations across the globe. WSL One Ocean is supported by global WSL One Ocean commercial partners SHISEIDO, YETI as well as regional partners such as Hydralyte.

WSL One Ocean Bells Restoration efforts are critical as erosion is an issue along the southern Australia coastline and worldwide. - WSL / Jarrah Lynch

Learning about and restoring coastal ecosystems is important today and for the future of the sport and our incredible coastlines.

To learn more and get involved with the partners involved in these efforts, visit the links below:

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 to protect the ocean by posting on social media with the hashtag #WSLOneOcean and tagging @wsl and @wsloneocean in your posts. Learn more at WSLOneOcean.org.

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