Santa Cruz Becomes A World Surfing Reserve

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Photo courtesy Save The Waves Coalition


Santa Cruz Becomes North America’s First World Surfing Reserve
By Kyle Thiermann

When three Hawaiian princes had surfboards milled out of local redwood and paddled out to the Santa Cruz river mouth in 1885, it became the birthplace of surfing in North America. Today the town revolves around surfing and on April 28th, the community made it official: Santa Cruz is now the first World Surfing Reserve (WSR) in North America. What does it mean? The goal is to protect the town against anything harmful to an area’s surf spots and the surrounding environment. This includes threats such as Wal Marts on the beach, poop in the water, and .Com yuppies blocking beach access. Proclaiming Santa Cruz as a WSR makes sense because basically the whole town surfs and so much of the local economy relies on girls continuing to go to the beach and the waves continuing to peel from right to left 12 months out of the year.

The good people at Save The Waves Coalition are the ones who made it happen and over the weekend they organized a series of parties and ceremonies for the community to celebrate the official news. The weekend festivities kicked off with a party at the Coconut Grove near the Boardwalk where a motley crew of locals came out in numbers. The event included a runway style model walk-off where 14 locals including Mavericks chargers Skindog, Sarah Gerhardt, and Richard Schmidt JR. put on their best Blue Steel face and modeled the evolution of the wetsuit in front of a hooting crowd. It turns out that the first ever wetsuit was actually a red superman-style Speedo. I know this because I was the lucky one picked to model it.

Santa Cruz

The afternoon ceremony at Steamer Lane. From left to right: Mark Stone, Jane McKenzie, Brian Kilpatrick, Sarah Gerhardt and her children, John Leopold, Dustin MacDonald, Jim Littlefield, Robert "Wingnut" Weaver, Dean LaTourrette, Geoffrey Dunn, Kim Stoner. Photo: Howard "Boots" McGhee

Becoming a WSR doesn’t mean Santa Cruz is immune to careless development. Save The Waves sees it more as a starting point than the finish line: A buffer against potential threats. And the weekend’s festivities were a great kick-off, bringing the community together to collectively feel pride in the real surf city.

Our sport is only getting bigger and protecting the coast will be a vital part of keeping the soul of surfing intact. As the late Peter Douglas said, “The coast is never saved. It’s always being saved.” The same goes for waves. After all, the beautiful girls and peeling rights are probably what attracted the three Hawaiian brothers to paddle out to the Rivermouth in the first place.— Kyle Thiermann