ARCHIVE: Surfers on a mission to protect our waves

5816551808_abdb442b6a_oAs we head towards late summer and (some of us) to the beach, here is a great surfing story from  our archives. Our sports pages always contained a community and environmental twist. This back page story by campaigner Andy Commins from TFP5 discusses how and why Britain’s surfers set out to protect the shores and seas around Cornwall.

Every surfer knows, if you want a good wave, you need a good sandbank.
Knowing where they are can mean the difference between the ride of your life
and a wasted surf session of paddling through disappointing ‘close outs’.Cornwall has had surfing in its blood for over 50 years. Surfers Against Sewage (SAS) is an environmental campaign group formed in 1990 in the heart of that community.

Our strong connection with the seais a key motivator for our continuing Protect Our Waves campaign.  But the waves close to the hearts of surfers and communities along the north Cornish coast are facing a new threat – a potentially devastating proposal to dredge the area, part of a project to recover tin reserves in the sea bed that were washed out by the mining industry.

The company behind the scheme, Marine Minerals have applied to the
Marine Management Organisation for permission to remove and process millions of tonnes of sediment before dumping the waste back on the sea floor. SAS has submitted a nine-page response to the first part of this application, raising significant concerns.

The dredging proposal is focused on the beaches around St Ives Bay, Porthtowan and Perranporth. I’ve surfed on this coast for over 15 years. You’ll find waves here as good as anywhere in the world – surfers come all year round, preferring the cold Celtic Sea to flying to sunny Hawaii or South Africa. These beaches are home to SAS’s HQ, but they’re also designated Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty and Sites of Special Scientific Interest.

As well as producing great surfing waves, sandbanks are also integral to the way the coast protects us all. A lot of the phenomenal wave energy generated by this winter’s powerful storm swells was dissipated out at sea by sandbanks acting us natural buffers.

Biodiversity could also be threatened; disrupting the sediment could release heavy metals and other chemicals tipped into the sea by the mining industry. Species potentially at risk from the process include seals, dolphins and crustaceans, all of which play important roles in regulating the marine environment.

Another disturbing issue buried within this worrying proposal is the potential for restrictions on using the sea for recreation. Marine Minerals wants their ship to be able to access sediment from as close in as 200 metres from the shore. This could result in a ban not just on surfing but on all types of recreational water use. We think that taking away this community resource for the benefit of a few company directors is unjust.

protect-our-waves-campaignThese waves have a powerful intrinsic value to many people living in coastal communities. Surfing and using the sea is a great way to stay fit, happy and healthy, as well as being an important part of the UK’s heritage, but these surfing waves also have an astonishing
economic value. SAS’s 2013 economic study identified the value of surfing to the UK as £1.8bn, with Cornwall providing the majority of that revenue.

Our movement will continue to represent water users, coastal communities and the marine environment throughout the application process.

Andy Cummins is campaigns director with environmental campaigners, Surfers Against Sewage (SAS) in Cornwall. Find out more about the Protect Our Waves campaign at

Photos: Surfer by Andy Taylor at; SAS ‘graveyard’ poster

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One Response to ARCHIVE: Surfers on a mission to protect our waves

  1. Peter Willcox says:

    Would recovery of these metals here reduce a worst impact elsewhere?

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