|Surfing is a mainstream pastime and competitive sport in many countries and provides a full range of economic, social, physical, and mental health benefits. Maintaining the integrity of surf breaks has proven to be a challenge, with a litany of degraded or destroyed surfing locations worldwide. This is attributed to a deficiency in expertise and experience in implementing surf science and management within governing authorities, associated consultants, or stakeholder groups; combined with a lack of value recognition and identification. This work considers how surf breaks as coastal resources could be better managed.
A literature review of technical reports, published articles, statutory instruments, evidence, and consents, along with interactive stakeholder workshops and surveys to identify key considerations, are combined with complex numerical modelling and machine learning methods to develop tools for effective surf break management.
In Aotearoa New Zealand, a surf break is described in policy as having various geophysical components in the vicinity of locations where surfing takes place and the areas offshore. Given the wide range of benefits associated with surfing, and the complexities of managing a natural resource, albeit in some cases anthropologically modified, the term ‘surfing resource’ was established and defined as a major outcome of this work and as a step in the process of developing a set of Management Guidelines for Surfing Resources (the Guidelines). The Guidelines, which are a world first, consider what aspects of the environment are the most important to surfing resources management, provide direction, as implementable steps, to authorities and proponents of activities in the coastal environment that can impact surfing resources, and include identification and monitoring strategies as well as a novel risk assessment framework which is underpinned by a surf break’s sensitivity as a function of geomorphological composition.
The Guidelines are supported by research streams that required field data collection and monitoring system development, numerical modelling, and machine learning to improve our understanding of surf break functionality and/or better our management strategies. This work emphasises the role of bathymetric features outside the surf zone that contribute to surfing wave quality, and the value of establishing swell corridors for management purposes. An automated system has been developed to monitor the key surfing wave quality indicator of peel angle through both space and time.
Effective surfing resource management requires a holistic, inclusive, case-by-case approach, that may require cultural, social and geophysical assessment, which is best implemented proactively with the identification of surfing resources and the establishment of environmental baselines.