Difficult and challenging waves give surfers the stoke that they're seeking
That’s what attracts surfers to their shores. Pushing themselves to overcome the difficulty of these waves is what fuels the stoke that everyone is seeking.
So it’s such a downer that human-accelerated climate change can change all of that and not for the better. Remember how we thought that more storms would mean more frequent and bigger waves?
For the most part, this is true. There is a small percentage of surfing hotspots that will actually improve as the waters rise (yey!) but by the end of this century, some famous surf breaks will suffer a decline in surfing quality.
According to Surfline, this news should not come as a surprise. The writing has long been on the wall. When they reviewed their records, starting in 1979, they found out that 15 out of 16 famous surfing locations all over the world have suffered a downward trend in the height of the surf waves.
It seems that climate change causes the world’s oceans to have smaller waves by the end of the century. Just goes to show that nothing lasts forever.
So given this context, which top surfing spots must be on a surfing pro’s bucket list before they go the way of the dodo?
The Cloudbreak, Tavarua, Fiji
The island of Tavarua in Fiji has eight main breaks but the most famous of them all is the Cloudbreak. It attracts professional surfers from all over the world because it has waves that break in the 10-20 feet range. The World Surfing League even features Tavarua as one of its tour stops.
However, rising sea waters are threatening this wave. Like most tiny Pacific islands, Fiji is being threatened by increasing sea levels that can wipe their island off the map.
One of the effects of human-accelerated climate change is that all over the world, sea water levels are rising. Fiji is essentially a country living on top of coral atolls. And their annual sea water rise of .5 inches is four times faster than the global average.
If this troubling situation continues, Cloudbreak will certainly be wiped out. But even more tragic is the fact that the Fijians will be without a home or a country. They’ll be the first casualties of climate change.
Cloudbreak in Tavarua, Fiji
Similar to Tavarua, the Teahupoo is one of the daunting places to surf in the world. It’s also part of the WSL tour. And like Fiji, Tahiti is also being threatened with increasing sea level rise.
The Teahupoo is widely known on the surfing circuit as the heaviest wave in the world. Surfer pros are drawn to it for the challenge of surviving dangerous waves and razor-sharp reefs.
It’s also often called one of the most dangerous surf spots in the world because the sudden changes in depth of the reef bottom creates waves that are fast, humongous, and powerful. That’s why surfers wear a helmet when surfing in this spot. To do so without one can be fatal especially with a wipe-out.
The silver lining in this whole situation is that as sea levels rise, it may make Teahupoo more gentle and less treacherous. It could then be safe for recreational surfing. Newbies to surfing would certainly welcome this, but surfing pros looking for a challenge? Maybe not.
Dangerous waves in Teahupoo, Tahiti
Pasta Point, Maldives
Maldivian surfers say the history of local surfing in their country starts in Pasta Point. It’s the most famous wave in the North Male atoll area. It also happens to be vulnerable to climate change.
Pasta Point has a reputation for consistent and high quality waves. It’s location is close to other 3 high-quality waves such as the Sultans, Honky's, and Jails. This offers the surfers with plenty of options, right and left at less than 5 minutes of dingy ride.
However, it’s not for beginners. Only intermediate and advanced level surfers will be able to enjoy this wave. But again, with climate change influencing the quality of the waves, it could result in fewer waves of lower quality in the future.
Surfing the consistent and high quality waves in Pasta Point, Maldives
Now that we know how climate change will affect us all in the end, we need to find ways to help address it. It’s the only way that we can help make sure that these waves will still be there in the next century, for the next generation of surfers.
— Derek Dodds, Wave Tribe Founder
Also known as the Banzai Pipeline, it is one of the biggest, heaviest waves on the planet. It occupies a legendary reputation on the list of challenging waves for surfing professionals.
It is also a deadly wave. It has sent hundreds of surfers to the hospital and claimed the lives of a few other in just less than a century. And yet, its reputation hasn’t stopped thousands more from trying to overcome the waves. The WSL Tour even includes the Pipeline as one of its stops.
The awesomeness of the Pipeline is partly attributed to North Oahu’s magnificent reefs which help make the surf as big as it is. Coral reefs play a crucial role in the production of some of the best waves since their formation helps create the drag and friction necessary to create larger waves.
Surfing the biggest and heaviest waves on the planet found on Banzai Pipeline in Hawaii
Reefs are essential to forming barrels, or what is known as hollow waves. They cause the waves to form and break quickly since they are more solid than a sandbar.
And here lies the rub. Rising levels of CO2 in the world’s oceans have caused the acidification of ocean water. The ocean’s pH level has now dropped by 30% over the past century and it’s going to drop by another 150% by 2100.
This increase in acidity is threatening calcium-forming creatures in the oceans. And that includes the corals. If they can’t produce calcium carbonate to build their skeletal framework, they’ll become brittle or die out.
If North Oahu’s reefs shrink because of acidification, there goes the barrel waves in the neighborhood.
Rincon, South California
Here in California, our Queen of the South stands to lose her crown if climate change gets his way.
Rincon’s popularity as one of the best places to go surfing is due to its well-formed waves and long rides. It is particularly best during the winter season at low tide because the swells are coming mostly from the west and northwest.
Unfortunately though, it is one among the surfing spots in California that is vulnerable to sea level rise. A study has discovered that surfing spots that rely on low to mid tide to generate its waves are at risk for wave decline. If this happens to Rincon, it will result in waves of lower quality. In a worse case scenario, it could be completely gone by the turn of this century.
Waves in Rincon, California
Healing the Ocean
But it doesn’t have to be this way. Over time, we’ve learned how we can lose surfing waves just because we’ve been meddling with our coastlines. Whether it is because of ill-designed beach infrastructure or because of coastal erosion, these waves are now gone. And now we can add anthropogenic climate change to the mix.
The loss of a surf break is not only our tribe’s loss. It’s also an entire community's. Local beach economies depend on surf tourism to bring in the bucks.
But we don’t have to stand by and do nothing. Now that we know how climate change will affect us all in the end, we need to find ways to help address it. It’s the only way that we can help make sure that these waves will still be there in the next century, for the next generation of surfers.
Here at Wave Tribe, we do our part by developing eco-stylish surfing gear and products. From surfboard travel bags to organic surfboard waxes, we make sure that surfing is no longer a toxic experience but an eco-friendly one.
And we’re not stopping there. We’re also supporting worthwhile projects that help save the ocean and its wildlife. If you want to do more than just lowering your carbon footprint when you’re surfing, volunteering your time and resources to these projects is one more concrete thing to do for the ocean.
Viewed in the span of human years, it may take some time before these surfing spots will truly vanish from our collective surfing experience. But there’s also no reason to speed their extinction by our inaction. Every little bit helps.