Why Surfers Should Worry About Climate Change | Your favorite breaks are sinking
Generally speaking the once a month or whatever “king tides” (the highest tide of a cycle) are the worst possible time to surf. Breaks are swamped. Barely breaking. Maybe a couple slow rolling mushburgers. Now imagine there was an extra foot or so or water on your favorite break all the time. That’s right, it’d be dogshit 24/7. That’s what climate change is gonna do. (Not to mention all the other terrible things)
Since the American government doesn’t believe it’s real what are you gonna do about it?
“Surf spots are going to disappear,” Dan Reineman told me, summarizing the findings of a study he published earlier this year that focused on California surfing. Reineman is a lecturer at Stanford University’s School of Earth, Energy, and Environmental Sciences, and a lifelong surfer. His study says that by 2100, sea-level rise could be an existential threat to about 18 percent of California’s surf spots, and could cause 16 percent to be worse. By 2050, surfers will have just started feeling these effects. (Interestingly, Reineman also says climate change may also improve about 5 percent of surf spots.)
Climate change’s effects vis a vis surfing are still a developing area for researchers like Reineman, and things like the quality of breaks as well as the overall surfing experience are highly subjective. Reineman’s findings come from a survey of California surfers reporting their own experiences, but they square with basic logic, according to John Weber, the Surfrider Foundation’s Mid-Atlantic regional manager.
Assuming the sea levels were somehow rising irrespective of human activity (and they’re not), the number of naturally occurring spots that are ideal for surfing wouldn’t be impacted much by climate change (although without humans, what would be the point?). Spots with an abundance of perfect breaks would just move inland. Weber said that perhaps “half the spots that are good are gonna go away,” but that we would see “just as many new ones added.”
In reality, however, Weber told me, the rising coastline will “run into houses, seawalls, street ends—stuff that’s not movable, and it’s probably not going to be as good for surf breaks. That means there’ll probably be more loss than gain.”
(below, your favorite break on the highest tide.)