The University of Plymouth’s world-leading marine and coastal research has helped North Devon secure World Surfing Reserve status.
The designation, awarded by the Save the Waves Coalition, covers approximately 30km of coastline including iconic surfing locations such as Croyde, Saunton, Woolacombe and Lynmouth.
It recognises the high quality and diversity of surf breaks but also the unique natural beauty of North Devon's surroundings, its deep-rooted and historic surf culture, and its importance to the wider community.
It also aims to protect waves and the surfing experience from threats such as harmful coastal development, water quality and pollution, limited coastal access, the impacts of climate change, and a host of other factors that directly or indirectly impact the delicate ecosystems on which waves of quality depend.
North Devon is the first region in the UK to gain the status, joining globally-renowned surfing locations in Australia, California, Portugal and South America.
It is a well-established hub of surf culture, home to the Museum of British Surfing, the sport’s national governing body Surfing England, and to brands such as Dry Robe and Tiki, all located in Braunton within easy access of the best beaches.
The bid to become a World Surfing Reserve has been led by a Local Stewardship Council including researchers from the University alongside organisations such as the North Devon UNESCO Biosphere and Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, environmental groups like Surfers Against Sewage, local community groups, surf clubs, beach businesses and landowners.
Within the bid process, academics from the University demonstrated the benefits of gaining status and the opportunities it could potentially unlock for businesses, residents and the local environment.
They also assessed the quality of the waves across North Devon’s surf hotspots and the factors that made them some of the highest quality beach breaks in the UK.
“The whole team at the University of Plymouth are extremely proud to be part of the UK’s first World Surfing Reserve. It represents a real opportunity to celebrate the unique waves and surfing environment in North Devon. Importantly, it will also enable us to introduce measures that will protect our precious surf breaks using scientific research to help us identify threats to wave and water quality and enhance the abundant natural capital of the region.”