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Carving for conservation: these are the world’s best-protected surf breaks

Did you know? From rugged backcountry surfing to the legendary Ghost Wave, some of the world’s most alluring surf breaks are part of Blue Parks—a growing network of the best-protected marine reserves on the planet. Check them out below!

Not sure how well-protected your favorite surf break is? Find it on the Marine Protection Atlas and join the growing surf community committed to protecting life below the waves.

  • Piedra del Viento, Chile – the multi-year battle to protect this world-class surf break and its surrounding ecosystems would not have been won without surfers working alongside the local community to protect the area from development. This groundbreaking central Chilean marine park puts power in the hands of artisanal fishermen to be local stewards, rather than relying on government managers. Piedra del Viento is the first Blue Spark to earn official presidential designation!

  • The Channel Islands, California – this Blue Park is a shining example of inter-agency management of a marine reserve. For surfers who like to get away from the crowds, the Channel Islands are home to a rugged, isolated, backcountry surfing experience. Although just miles off the Southern California coast (and not too far from where the Rip Curl WSL Finals will be happening at Lower Trestles in September), getting to these isolated surf breaks on the backsides of the islands requires access to a boat and just the right conditions. Would you be up for the adventure?
  • The Ghost Wave, California - Big wave surfing is one of the most dangerous sports on the planet, and the California Seamounts Blue Spark is home to the most legendary wave of all. A hundred miles offshore, the Cortes Bank is a drowned volcanic mountain range that attracts vampire squid, ancient black coral, and what many surfers consider to be the largest wave on the planet. In a perfect swell, the wave—originating in thousand-foot depths and breaking across the shallow back of the submerged ridge—might reach over 100 feet tall. Read more about it in Chris Dixon’s book Ghost Wave!

What’s the difference between Blue Parks and Blue Sparks? Blue Parks are a growing network of ocean reserves that meet the highest standards for management—places where wildlife and habitat are protected in ways that are truly and enduringly effective, based on science. But becoming a Blue Park is part of a journey, and many marine protected areas (MPAs) are becoming “Blue Sparks” along the way. Blue Sparks are promising marine reserves that show significant community engagement and a strong interest in building the best protections possible, and Marine Conservation Institute collaborates with them to help them become the Blue Parks of tomorrow, whether helping with scientific assessments or spearheading advocacy campaigns to help push for stronger government protection. The upcoming Corona Open surf event in Mexico will bring pro surfers up close and personal with one of these Blue Sparks: Cabo Pulmo National Park, created by the local community, has revitalized the coral reef and fish populations off the southern tip of Baja.

Often surfers are at the head of the charge when it comes to grassroots movements to protect vulnerable coastlines! Next time you travel to surf or tune into your favorite surf event from afar, you can explore the conservation status of the waters below the waves using the interactive Marine Protection Atlas. Scientists around the world agree that the minimum amount of ocean that needs to be protected, globally, is 30% by the year 2030—and those protections need to be strong and effective if they’re going to work. If it looks like your favorite surf break could use better protection, consider joining forces with WSL Pure and Marine Conservation Institute to rally your surfing community around a common cause!