There are few things more sacred to surfers than our waves. We recognise them at a glance; spend hundreds of hours seeking them out and thousands of hours learning their moods, then put just as much energy into keeping them secret and “protecting” them from overcrowding and ruin.
But often we get so focused on hoarding our waves from other surfers that we forget who the real enemies are. As much as our fellow wave riders might crowd our playgrounds, at the end of the day they are doing so because they appreciate them and understand their value.
The non-surfing world, on the other hand, tends to think that waves are a dime a dozen, and that there is nothing wrong with wiping a few off the map—especially when big-dollar businesses are involved.
Recently, a number of waves on the island of Bali have come under threat from large-scale development plans. One gem of a righthander is said to have been destroyed altogether, and a number of others are looking down the barrel at jetties, piers, and other tube-crushing projects.
You’d think that Bali, of all places, would understand the value of preserving waves—after all, a large portion of the island’s economy is based on surf dollars. But for decades, ambitious businessmen have used their money and influence to build over quality surf spots all over the planet, and it was inevitable that a bourgeoning tourist destination like Bali would eventually go the same route.
For every surf spot that locals save or protected surf reserve that Save the Waves establishes, there are just as many spots out there that used to break, but are now lost to history. Here are five that we miss the most.
Killer Dana, California
Once considered one of southern California’s preeminent point breaks, Killer Dana was a long, symmetrical righthander that broke off the coast of Dana Point. When plans were drawn up in the 1960s to create Dana Point Harbor in the middle of the break, surfing was still in its infant stages, and the economic value of waves was decades away from being fully comprehended.
Local surfers could do little but stand by and watch as their beloved Killer Dana was killed, never to be seen again, except in the occasional black-and-white film clip. Today, all that remains is the shorter, softer, less-perfect Doheny.
Good news, there are plenty of waves across the west coast. Spot guide to California, HERE.
La Barre, France
La Barre was France’s Killer Dana. An offshore peak that its hey day was one of the heaviest on offer in Europe, the beach break was frequented by a loyal crew of local chargers, but also attracted world-class talent who came to test themselves on its solid walls.
That is, until the local government decided to put in a breakwater in the early 1970s. The result, like so many other breakwaters, was a dumbing down of the sandbar, from a juicy, powerful swell magnet to something much less exciting.
Spot guide to France, HERE.
Baja is full of dozens of mythical waves, but for those in the know, none holds the mystique of the reefbreak called Harry’s. The Long brothers kept Harry’s a closely guarded secret for years, which was an impressive feat considering it was only a couple hours south of San Diego, and a couple miles away from Salsipuedes, a Northern Baja staple.
But when Shell-Sempra announced plans to build a natural gas terminal directly in the break, Greg and Rusty knew they had to expose the wave and try to bring in the help of big guns like Save the Waves and The Surfrider Foundation. Unfortunately, all attempts to stop the development were futile. The terminal went in, and Harry’s was essentially cemented over, taking with it what the Longs considered to be one of the best slabs in North America.
A guide to surfing Mexico, HERE.
Ponta Delgada, Madeira
The case of Ponta Delgada, a dreamy left-hander on the Portuguese Island of Madeira, is as ironic as they come. The local government decided to build a salt-water swimming pool on the shore in front of the wave to help bolster tourism, and then put in a jetty to protect the pool from the ocean.
The result? A natural salt-water playground destroyed so that a man-made one could exist, and a major drop in tourism when the region’s best wave died. It doesn't get much worse than that.
La Jolla, Mexico
Those who have been going down to mainland Mexico for decades know that the wave the ASP nicknamed “La Jolla” was pumping out perfect righthand sandbar tubes long before a Search event exposed it to the world. But despite the explosion in surf tourism in the years following what many called “the greatest pro surfing event of all time,” it wasn’t the crowds that ended up destroying this gem of a wave—not directly, at least.
Instead, it was a local entrepreneur who was looking to cater to the tourists, and built a jetty in front of his restaurant. The jetty displaced the sand, and reportedly turned one of the world’s best sandbar barrels into a soft shadow of it’s former self.
When to go, HERE.