North Devon has become the 12th location around the globe to be selected as a World Surfing Reserve, the first of its kind in the UK and only the second in Europe. It is also the first ever cold water World Surfing Reserve, with the best waves found to arrive in the winter season.  

North Devon is well known for being the surfing capital of the South West and is now being internationally recognised. The region has an established surfing culture and is home to the Museum of British Surfing as well as Surfing England. The entire North Devon coastline plays host to a range of different surfing schools and tutors offering everything from equipment hire to sessions out on the waves and this new World Surfing Reserve covers a world-class surf zone that stretches across around 30km of coastline, covering some of the most popular surfing areas in the region.

The international title recognises and celebrates outstanding surfing beaches and aims to help protect those coastlines. Other regions that have been granted the title include Santa Cruz and Malibu in Califorinia, Australia’s Gold Coast, Manly and Noosa, Punta de Lobos in Chile, Huanchaco in Peru, Guarda do Embau in Brazil, Ericerira in Portugal and Bahia de Todos Santos in Mexico. The World Surfing Reserves Programme was launched in California by Save the Waves, an international non-governmental organisation dedicated to protecting surf ecosystems around the globe. Each location that is named as a reserve establishes a Local Stewardship Council to design a plan to improve the conservation of the coastline and waves. In North Devon, the group will include North Devon UNESCO Biosphere and AONB teams, as well as groups like Surfers Against Sewage, local community groups, surf clubs and local beach businesses. For the first time, these local communities will have a say in the decisions taken to protect the North Devon coastline. The aim is to protect waves and the surfing experience from threats like development, water quality and the impacts of climate change.

With North Devon, the region has not only been recognised for the quality of its beaches, but also the unique natural beauty of its surroundings.

Speaking to reporters about the news, MP for North Devon, Selaine Saxby, said: “I am absolutely delighted that North Devon has become a World Surfing Reserve. I was a late starter to surfing but love the freedom of the water. My surfing is far, from world class but our North Devon beaches are and many thanks to everyone who has brought this initiative to fruition.”

The World Surfing Reserve’s organisers are hoping that by successfully implementing the programme in North Devon, it can be replicated by other coastal areas of the UK to protect their own waves and beaches.