Malibu’s worthiest of waves
October 7, 2010
It has starred in more than 75 movies. It is the namesake for one of California’s best known environmental groups. And its “original perfect wave” has made Malibu a Mecca for generations of surfers.
Now Surfrider Beach—the birthplace of modern surfing in California—will add yet another accolade to its long list of laurels: On Saturday, it will officially be dedicated as the nation’s first World Surfing Reserve.
“These special surf spots are the Yosemites of the coast,” said Dean LaTourrette, executive director of Save The Waves Coalition, a non-profit environmental organization based in Santa Cruz County that has spearheaded the international initiative to designate and preserve iconic surfing coastlines worldwide.
“People need to understand how valuable and fragile they are, and the World Surfing Reserve designation will help the international and local communities focus on protecting them.”
Although the World Surfing Reserves designation is purely honorary and will have no regulatory authority or impact, LaTourrette said the groups involved hope it will raise awareness. The designation, modeled after a successful Australian program that has singled out more than a half-dozen of that continent’s beaches, was inspired, he said, by UNESCO’s World Heritage Sites, which help preserve locations of cultural significance.
The Malibu reserve, he said, will be the first in a series of World Surfing Reserves—“a UNESCO of surfing”—planned for pristine coastlines in Australia, Hawaii and other important surf destinations.
Surfrider Beach, formally known as Malibu Lagoon State Beach, lies near the Malibu Pier on the northern arm of Santa Monica Bay. Although it has been plagued over the years by crowds and water quality issues, its long, smooth-breaking waves are considered the “definitive California pointbreak,” according to “The Encyclopedia of Surfing” by former Surfer magazine editor Matt Warshaw.
Surfrider beat out more than 125 nominees for the inaugural designation, including Trestles, Mavericks, Waikiki, Manly Beach in Australia and breaks in Indonesia and Europe. The choice, LaTourrette said, was based in part on the long fight surfers have waged to help keep it clean.
Situated at the mouth of the Malibu Creek watershed and Malibu Lagoon, Surfrider’s history has been entwined with the environmental movement since the late 1960s, when runoff began fouling the lagoon with waste and sewage. In fact, the Surfrider Foundation, one of the state’s most dogged environmental groups, was founded as a response to Malibu’s environmental issues.
The World Surfing Reserve designation “is a statement by the global surfing community that Malibu is extremely important to surfing and should be protected,” said Chad Nelsen, the Surfrider Foundation’s environmental director.
“Of course, WSR do not have any legally binding protection, so the real value of the WSR will be demonstrated by local and global support for the protection of Malibu.”
In recent years, a number of public and private sector initiatives have been undertaken to reduce the pollution that has long plagued the waters of Surfrider—the most recent being Malibu’s newly opened Legacy Park.
Beneath the $38-million project is a network of pipes and filters designed to remove bacteria and contaminants from stormwater runoff in Malibu Lagoon, Malibu Creek and Surfrider. Among the governments donors was L.A. County, which contributed $700,000. Private donors included Rita Wilson and Tom Hanks, Don Henley, Rob and Michele Reiner, the Eli and Edythe Broad Foundation and the Marilyn and Jeffrey Katzenberg Family Foundation.
As part of the surfing reserve designation, a local stewardship council has been created to help coordinate and publicize Surfrider’s various preservation efforts. Members so far include such local surfing legends as Allen Sarlo, Andy Lyon and Steven Lippman, community leaders such as Michal Blum of the Malibu Surfing Association and Jefferson “Zuma Jay” Wagner, the wave-riding mayor of Malibu.
“We’re the local ones who will keep an eye on it,” said Wagner, adding that the designation will be invaluable as a fundraising and advocacy tool.
“The social stigma of messing with a preserve may not be much to a lawyer, but, boy, to the general public, that’s a battle cry.”
The dedication on October 9 will begin with a sunrise ceremony on the beach and a blessing by local Chumash leader Mati Waiya, followed by a paddle-out, a formal dedication at 11 a.m. and an evening celebration at Duke’s Malibu.
California Coastal Commissioner Ross Mirkarimi said the commission has already adopted a resolution supporting the World Surfing Reserves program, which he said “will benefit not only surfers, but also the greater coastal community.”