Even for non-surfers, there is something magical about using a little technology and a lot of skill, strength, and balance to harness a small bit of the energy embodied in a crashing wave. The intimacy shared between a surfer and the ocean is something anyone could learn from.
But around the world, classic surf spots are under threat from pollution and development. Often, these threats continue unchecked—opposed by only a small group of local surfers—meaning the true impact is not realized until it is too late.
One of Europe's most popular surf destinations, the break at Mundaka, Spain, was host to professional competitions and the source of a thriving tourism economy. Then, the sandbar that extended from the mouth of the river into the ocean suddenly disappeared. The culprit? The dredging of a nearby river stripped the wave of its root.
Without this critical sand feature, the wave shrunk, then disappeared, taking much of the local economy with it. However, after three years, the sand built up once again, and now the wave (and the tourism) is back. The local government learned a valuable lesson with this story: Don't make serious environmental decisions without thinking the consequences through.
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Photo credit: surfglassy/Creative Commons