Surfers Against Sewage campaigns in a number of ways to highlight and protect sites of special surfing interest. SAS is campaigning to increase public awareness and develop a greater understanding amongst policy makers that waves are a vital part of the socio-economic fabric of many UK coastal communities, and it is essential that wave-centric communities can amplify their concerns so that irreversible damage is not done to our waves, coastal environment and surfing beaches. Protect Our Waves campaigns include the POW Petition, marine spatial planning, and consultation on environmental impact assessments for coastal developments & industry. However, all SAS activity is inextricably linked to protecting our waves, oceans and beaches, from community beach cleans to schools talks.
SAS believes that three of the main steps towards achieving better protection for UK surf spots includes:
1. Increase public awareness: Geographical features such as mountains and rivers are the most tangible natural assets for people to envisage as elements that should be protected, because they are more or less fixed. The concept that a particular ‘wave’ needs protecting is, however, much more difficult. One reason for this is that when we refer to a ‘wave’, we don’t really mean just one wave. We really mean the circumstances that come together to make waves break at a particular spot on the coast, in a particular way. Saying that we need to protect the ‘right-hander at Thurso East’ is a bit like saying we must protect the ‘09:50 from Paddington to Oxford’. In reality we are not protecting any trains; rather we are protecting the circumstances that allow that service to run.
2. Become stakeholders: Surfers and other coastal water-users need an official voice within the politics of a country, in other words, become official stakeholders, this would ensure that their views are taken that much more seriously. SAS represents the UK surfing and wider water sports community on this front. A breakthrough has recently been made in Scotland, as a direct result of considerable lobbying by SAS. In February 2010, the Scottish Government recognised recreational water-users’ need for a voice on Regional Planning Partnerships within the Scottish Marine & Coastal Access Act. The amendment was forwarded by former Green Party Member of Scottish Parliament, Robin Harper, on behalf of Surfers Against Sewage. A seat on the regional planning partnerships gives recreational water-users the platform to voice any concerns relating to the marine environment and recreational wave resources. Achievements like these set a great precedent, which can be used as an example when justifying that water-users should become stakeholders in other countries. SAS is working towards better political engagement on the issue with the Protect Our Waves petition.
3. Laws to protect waves: Laws are needed to specifically protect surfing waves. In the UK, developers already have to go through an expensive and time-consuming process to get planning permission, and this includes passing an Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) approved by stakeholders. If there were proper laws stating that surfing waves cannot be interfered with or destroyed, it would be in the developers’ own interest to avoid putting their concrete in the wrong place. At the moment, no law exists in the UK to protect surf spots, but it does in other countries including Peru. Peru has a history of surfing culture that goes back almost as far as Hawaii, and surfing is seen as a respectable and worthwhile pastime, unlike in many parts of Europe.