It was back when Jardim Do Mar – a famous big wave spot in Madeira – was heartlessly destroyed by a government development that the surfing world began taking notice of the destruction of surf spots in the name of ‘progress’.

Before the dumping of cement blocks along the shoreline ruined it, Jardim had already been the basis of some great content for magazines, and was even the site of a big wave contest in 2001. There was public outcry, there was rioting on the streets, but big business took over and went ahead with it anyway. You can still surf it, but only for about an hour or so around the low tide before the blocks ruin the lineup with backwash.

Save Paúl do Mar from Surf Film Fest Portugal on Vimeo.

It had already happened at Bruce’s Beauties. Where dune stabilization and rampant ocean front development killed the sand flow that helped to fill up the holes between the rocks, and the wave became a ghost of what Bruce Brown found back in 1963 during the filming of the Endless Summer.

When the swell has just the right angle on it, it still comes around the corner and into St Francis Bay, but unless it is the lowest of low tides, and there is a sand build up, particularly at the top, it’s a crapshoot. Wonky, bendy waves that break close to the shelf. No fun and more of a novelty. It still does have a golden hour here and there, but not often, and not worth traveling for.

There was also a time when the world lost Mundaka, due to the clearing of the river mouth. It was in 2004 or thereabouts that a massive government dredging project stripped the river mouth of about 300,000 cubic meters of sand, and the magical wave was gone. It stayed away for about two heart-breaking years before the sand started to fill up naturally, and those barrels started coming back. In 2015 they (the government) started doing it all over again to fix up some other part of coast that was lacking in sand, but Save The Waves and the locals got together and managed to stop it. 

We also know the story of Harry’s in Baja, Mexico. The Long brothers Greg and Rusty were two of the earliest surfers to frequent the big wave point break along with Jason Murray, and they kept it to themselves. Then one weekend they arrived and the wave was gone, with the Sempra-Shell burying the surf spot within days to develop their 600 million dollar LNG (liquid natural gas) site. It was a tragic ending, as it turns out that Sempra’s land rights were actually three miles further down the coast, and they had no right to this piece of land as it was. Still, it took big business and some large equipment one weekend to kill Harry’s, and that was a crying shame.

The most recent victory for Save The Waves and for local surfers was the victory that took place at Punta Do Lobos late last year – The left hand point-break that previously hosted a Big Wave Tour event and also a fine high performance wave on smaller days. It was under threat by developers who wanted to fill the cliff-top land with seven story buildings overlooking the waves.

It was a long haul, and a massive combined effort to save this piece of coastline. Save The Waves, Ramon Navarro and many other surfers, benefactors and sympathizers, were able to pool their resources and buy a big enough chunk of land to prevent future development ... for now.

Of course there is also the current threat to the magical beachbreak of Martha’s on King Island, which could be lost to a Salmon farm.

The destruction of waves will continue for as long as you and I are alive, and it is our job as surfers to look after our home patches, as well as anyone else who might need help. Otherwise we’re going to keep on losing more and more world class waves, until all we’ll have left is Kelly’s wave.