A scientist and life long surfer from California has claimed his research shows that rising sea levels are likely to destroy many of his local spots.
Using information regarding optimal tidal and swell conditions for California surf spots, gathered from more than a thousand local surfers, Dan Reineman has concluded that ‘16% of surf-spots are endangered due to drowning; 18% are threatened, but could adapt if natural shoreline processes are not impeded; and 5% might improve as rising sea levels increase the likelihood they will experience optimal conditions’ with effects potentially being felt as early as 2050.
Whilst many would expect rising sea levels to simply see the waves breaking over new banks and reefs a little further inland, sea defences and real estate built close to the current high tide line could turn previously epic high tide waves into backwashy shore-dumps. “Houses, seawalls, street ends, stuff that’s not movable, [are] not going to be as good for surf breaks.” John Weber, the Surfrider Foundation’s mid-Atlantic regional manager tells Vice. “That means there’ll probably be more loss than gain.”
Whilst we understand the logic, it seems as though the study’s starting point was predicting how sea level increases, forecast for around 100 years in the future, would effect the beaches, if they looked exactly as they do now.
Due to the incredibly unpredictable and changeable nature of surf set-ups, especially beach breaks, and the dramatic natural and man made changes that will undoubtedly effect the shape of the coastline over the next 100 years, outside of the unmovable structures examples, this false-starting point renders the conclusions fairly redundant.
Locally speaking, it doesn’t seem like too much of a leap to predict that your go-to spring low-tide waves may be under threat if water levels rise sufficiently that the tide never quite gets low enough, but on the other side of the coin, an increase high water mark may see waves breaking over areas of reef, or sand previously never submerged.
The fact that climate change is also predicted to cause stronger storm systems also means that swell could end up being bigger and more consistent. Whilst this would by no means be a positive thing for the world as whole, it could result in better waves for surfers. However Reineman says these potential ‘positive’ changes would be inconsequential compared to the risks outlined in his study. “We’re not talking about the waves on average being a little bit bigger or a little bit smaller.” he concluded “We’re talking about whether they exist at all.”
Cover photo: ASP/Rowland