In 2011 Ericeira was named as an official World Surfing Reserve by the Save the Waves coalition. By then it was only the second World Surfing Reserve in the world, and until today still the only one in Europe. This title put Ericeira on the map and has given strength to its position in the surf- and tourism industry. So why was Ericeira chosen? What does it mean and why does it matter? Where are the other reserves in the World? Any questions you might have about the World Surfing Reserve will be answered right here!
For a surfing spot to become a World Surfing Reserve, it needs to check some boxes. The following criteria has to be met:
1. High quality and consistent waves
Ericeira definitely checks this box. In a relatively small area, the Ericeira coast offers some very high quality surf breaks, and all very different. For every level you can find a wave that suits you. Ribeira D’Ilhas for beginners/intermediate surfers, and famous Coxos for more experienced surfers.
2. Special environmental characteristics
The ocean at the Ericeira coastline is home to a very rich biodiversity. It hosts around 1.000 marine species including sardines, tuna and Atlantic mackerel. The coastline consists of rocky cliffs and little bays with golden sand beaches. With these cliffs, and some small rivers ending in ocean, a lively biodiversity can be found here that is definitely worth protecting.
3. A significant culture and surf history
Ericeira has always been a place of seafarers. It’s earliest inhabitants lived almost exclusively from the sea. In the 19th century, Ericeira was the most important port in the province of Estremadura and one of the busiest in the country. Around this time Ericeira also became a popular seaside resort that was even visited by the Portuguese royals.
Since the mid 70’s, when more and more surfers started to travel around the world in search of divine waves, Ericeira has become an important hotspot for Portuguese Surfing. In 1992 the Ericeira Surf Clube was founded, in 2007 Tiago Pires became the first Portuguese surfer that qualified for the World Tour and Ribeira D’Ilhas has been hosting several surf events for the World Tour. All these events in history made Ericeira to what it is today.
4. Enough capacity and local support
A lot of people and organizations needed to work together to get Ericeira recognized as a reserve. Joint efforts and collaborations from international and local surfers, business owners and the Portuguese government resulted in the making of Ericeira World Surfing Reserve.
So what does it mean?
In short, it means that the surf breaks and the environment around them will be protected so that future generations can also enjoy the waves and nature like we do now. Something that is not very evident in the world we live in today (just look at president Trump trying to eliminate protected land in Utah). You could compare it to UNESCO. A designation like that also protects certain areas and can help in holding off any plans of projects that could endanger or destroy it.
The title is important because of several reasons. Andy McKinnon, Gold Coast World Surfing Reserve chairman and former ISA world longboarding champion puts it quite clearly: “It’s global recognition that our iconic pointbreaks are some of the best in the world… and what it also does is spread a level of awareness among the locals and around the world about how concerned we are about these breaks,” Even though he is talking about the Gold Coast (World Surfing Reserve since 2015), the same goes for Ericeira. The title of being a reserve shows that people care and are willing to join forces to protect special places against any dangers there might be. It’s about sustainability and designations like these can help in the fight to preserve surf spots for future generations.
About 4 kilometers of the Ericeira coastline belongs to the reserve. Although the whole town of Ericeira benefits from being a reserve, officially only 7 surf spots are protected, all north of town. These are São Lourenço, Coxos, Crazy Left, Cave, Ribeira D’Ilhas, Reef and Pedra Branca.Read more about these surf spots in Ericeira in our Ericeira Surf Spot Guide. In the centre of town you can find an innovative interpretation centre that uses modern technology to show you everything you need to know about the the 7 waves and their characteristics. Next to that it also provides you with information about the biosphere, the meteorological composition, the flora and fauna and the facilities at these surf breaks. In the video above you can see what this looks like. A centre like this one is unique in the world and it’s worth visiting if you come to Ericeira.
Save The Waves coalition
The Save the Waves coalition is an organization from the United States that dedicates itself to protect and preserve the environment of surf spots all around the world. This video explains what they do exactly and how they decide which surf spots are chosen to become a World Surfing Reserve.
Other World Surfing Reserves
In total there are 8 other World Surfing Reserves in the world next to Ericeira in 2017. The lucky ones who also received the honorable title are Malibu, California (USA), Gold Coast (Australia), Punta de Lobos (Chile), Bahia Todos Santos, Baja (Mexico), Santa Cruz, California (USA), Huanchaco (Peru), Guarda do Embaú (Brazil) and Manly Beach (Australia).
Read more about about the Ericeira World Surfing Reserve in this booklet with amazing photos (that we also used in this blog) and on the Save the Waves website. Other sources: Stab Magazine, The Surfboard Warehouse and Xgames.