- WSL / Ed Sloane

Ahead of the SHISEIDO Tahiti Pro presented by Outerknown, the World Surf League teamed up once again with Coral Gardeners to support their coral restoration efforts in Teahupo'o!

Through a local WSL One Ocean initiative, Coral Gardeners hosted its third annual workshop, bringing together local volunteers, kids and surfers to prep the reef for the upcoming outplanting season along with WSL Championship Tour (CT) surfers, such as Kanoa Igarashi, Bettylou Sakura Johnson, Connor O'Leary, and Liam O'Brien.

WSLOO Tahiti 24 Joining forces with Coral Gardeners, volunteers, local youth, and WSL Championship Tour surfers Bettylou Sakura Johnson, Kanoa Igarashi, Connor O'Leary, and Liam O'Brien to prep Teahupo'o's reef for future out planting. - WSL / Ed Sloane

This year, we visited the nursery garden from our previous workshops and focused on removing algae from the existing reef to prepare it for outplanting. Due to water temperatures reaching an all-time high globally, coral reefs worldwide are facing a mass beaching event. To prevent further stress, we proceeded with care around the nursery and concentrated on prepping the existing reef, where the mature and healthy corals will eventually be planted.

When the ocean gets too warm, corals become stressed and expel the symbiotic algae living in their tissues, causing them to lose their color and main source of energy. Bleached corals are not dead yet, and can recover if their environment improves. Coral Gardeners have been monitoring corals closely during this period to better understand their responses and identify heat-resistant colonies for further propagation. In their garden in Teahupo'o, some corals have shown signs of bleaching, while others are still thriving and growing.

WSLOO Tahiti 24 WSL Championship Tour surfer Bettylou Sakura Johnson proudly showing us the algea she removed from the existing reef. - WSL / Ed Sloane WSLOO Tahiti 24 WSL Championship Tour surfer Kanoa Igarashi removing algea from the existing reef. - WSL / Ed Sloane WSLOO Tahiti 24 A closer look into how our volunteers removed algea from the reef. - WSL / Ed Sloane

"It's so great to be swimming around these corals and at the same time obviously knowing that you are also supporting the growth of the coral reef as well as the local environment." - Kanoa Igarashi, WSL Championship Tour surfer

WSLOO Tahiti 24 WSL CT surfer Kanoa Igarashi and Salomé Chauvelot, Impact Manager at Coral Gardeners visiting the coral nursery garden started in 2022. - WSL / Ed Sloane WSLOO Tahiti 24 An upclose look at the resilient, maturing corals. - WSL / Ed Sloane

Under the care of the local kids and the Coral Gardeners, these coral nurseries will be nurtured until they fully recover and reach maturity. Eventually, they will help restore the entire ecosystem and enhance its biodiversity and resilience.

This long-term collaboration with the World Surf League led to the beginning of a whole new Coral Gardeners branch in Teahupo'o. In the past years, the Coral Gardeners team has undertaken a series of initiatives from workshops to awareness events and reef assessments to develop an adapted restoration strategy and engage the local community in the preservation of Teahupo'o's reef, which not only creates world-class waves but also protects the islanders and contributes to their livelihoods.

WSLOO Tahiti 24 A closer look at a resilient coral on the nursery garden. - WSL / Ed Sloane WSLOO Tahiti 24 Peeking down at the coral nursery garden below the surface. - WSL / Ed Sloane

"The WSL Pure Grant Program has enabled us to really begin this new project with the local community of Teahupo'o. We really want the coral restoration project here to be something that comes from the local community, the surfers especially, as well as the fishers, and the kids." - Salomé Chauvelot, Coral Gardeners Impact Manager

As part of its mission to scale up reef restoration as a regenerative ocean solution to the loss of coral reefs, Coral Gardeners is exponentially increasing its capacity to grow and outplant corals by establishing new sites in French Polynesia, including the garden at Teahupo'o, and now, around the world with their first international branch in Fiji near the famous Cloudbreak surf spot.

"We are thrilled to have support from WSL to bring our project in Teahupo'o to life and help us reach our goal to scale up reef restoration globally. We want to gather a maximum amount of people around our mission and bring awareness to the importance of restoring and preserving valuable reef ecosystems." - Taiano Tehio, Coral Gardener

To learn more about Coral Gardeners and support their work, help by adopting a coral or representing the movement with their merchandise by visiting coralgardeners.org.

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. Show us what you are doing 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.

WSL One Ocean is supported by Shiseido and YETI.

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