55,000 Protect Our Waves Petition signatures delivered to 10 Downing Street

On Tuesday 22nd October, Surfers Against Sewage campaigners were accompanied by double Brit Award winner Ben Howard to deliver the the Protect Our Waves petition to No 10 Downing Street, representing the call of 55,000 surfers for better protection of UK waves, oceans and beaches. SAS also released a new economic survey highlighting the £1.8 Billion value of UK surfing to call for increased action to protect our waves.

Ben also attended a briefing event in the House of Commons sponsored by Stephen Gilbert MP, and attended by over 20 MPs, where the new economic study revealed that surfing is worth over £1.8 billion to the UK economy, to reinforce to policy makers and MPs the need to safeguard valuable and vulnerable surfing environments & communities around the UK. The event also included 11 times European longboard champion Ben Skinner, who spoke about the UK’s world class waves.

Over the past year, the Protect Our Waves petition has received tens of thousands of signatures of support, highlighting the importance of UK surfing resources to coastal communities nationwide. The petition calls for better protection for the coastal environment and those that use it. The focus of the petition is a call for amendments to legislation to better control sewage pollution, marine litter and damaging coastal developments & industry. Surfers Against Sewage believes that waves and surf spots deserve to be seen as part of UK heritage and should be afforded greater recognition and protection through debate and legislation.

The economic study produced by Surfers Against Sewage and economist Dr Mills will ensure policy makers and MPs are better informed of the value of the UK’s precious and vulnerable surfing resource before they make policy decisions that could negatively impact on coastal communities, both economically and socially. This ground breaking study is good news for the UK with the value of £1.8 billion comparable to the economic value of sailing for the UK or tourism for Cornwall.

The study also dispels the out-dated and stereotypical view of a surfer. 64% of the surfers are educated to at least an undergraduate level compared with only 27% of the general public. And 79% of surfers belong to the professional, managerial and business owning class, compared with the 54% of the general public. Surfers are not just those in their 20s, in fact surfers are well represented into their 30s, 40, 50s and beyond. These new figures show that surfers are important and influential members of coastal communities, well educated and politically engaged.

The petition focuses on three main issues – sewage pollution, marine litter and damaging developments & industry on the UK coastline.

There are approximately 31,000 Combined Sewer Overflows (CSOs) around the UK. These CSOs discharge untreated human sewage and storm water after periods of rain or when the sewerage system fails. In the 2013 bathing season, there were 549 untreated human sewage discharges from CSOs across the 250 beaches included in SAS’s Sewage Alert Service, this summer has been remarkable dry. The POW petition is calling for a reduction in CSO discharges throughout the year and improved real time public information relating to associated short-term pollution incidents.

The amount of marine litter found on UK beaches has increased by almost two-fold in the last fifteen years. A plastic bottle, if left on the beach, could persist for more than 450 years. The POW petition calls for legislation to ensure beach operates undertake at least quarterly beach cleans throughout the year, including the winter

Finally, the POW petition calls for greater protection for the UK’s surfing resource from damaging and inappropriate developments and industry, which threaten to damage or destroy surfing resources. Surfers Against Sewage has actively campaigned against harbour developments, dredging proposals, coastal defence schemes and offshore proposals that pose a significant threat to the UK’s natural surfing capital.

SAS’s new economic study reveals the average UK surfer spends £3,624 annually on surfing. This breaks down as follows; £495.21 on surfboards, wetsuits and other surfing equipment, £708.45 in local cafes and bars and £587.30 in local convenience stores, £966.27 on petrol, £222.86 on parking and £169 is spent on accommodation in the UK and £474 is spent on foreign travel. The new study also dispels the myth that surfers survive on the fringes of society. The average UK surf is well educated with 64% of respondents having an undergraduate or above qualification compared to 27% in England and Wales for the general population (ONS, 2011). This translates to a higher percentage of professional jobs amongst the UK surfing community too.

Through SAS’s extensive supporter base the survey generated 2,159 useable responses. Whilst most of the respondents were from Cornwall and Devon, as could be expected, SAS identified 11 regions with a population of more than 10,000 surfers. These surfers are not restricted to the under 30s with a significant amount of surfers in their 40s, 50s and beyond. This confirms what SAS has long since believed, that surfers are influential members of coastal communities.