Biodiversity: healthy ecosystems that provide the ideal conditions for great surf | Photo: Loiterton/Creative Commons

Surfing and environmental conservation go hand in hand.

Pristine oceans and surrounding coastlines are essential for healthy ecosystems that provide the ideal conditions for great surf.

Biodiversity is a key component of a thriving ecosystem and offers other benefits, such as clean air and water, which are essential for ocean sports and daily living.

A recently released study ranks 201 countries from most to least biodiverse.

Biodiversity is the variety of flora and fauna found within a particular habitat.

The study titled "Global Biodiversity Index" published by The Swiftest catalogs and compares the world's countries based on six key factors:

  • Number of mammals;
  • Number of amphibians;
  • Number of fish;
  • Number of reptiles;
  • Number of birds;
  • Number of plant species;

Furthermore, biodiversity provides a buffer against the impacts of climate change, which can have a significant impact on wave formation, wave shape, and other factors essential for surfing.

Climate change will continue to damage reefs and create a more acidic ocean.

Biodiversity is crucial for the surfing community's well-being and prosperity and for every living being on the planet.

Global Biodiversity Index: the 201 most and least biodiverse countries in 2022 | Illustration: The Swiftest

Biodiversity in Top Surfing Destinations

So, how did the top popular surfing destinations rank for biodiversity?


Brazilian world champions like Filipe Toledo, Gabriel Medina, and Italo Ferreira all hail from the most biodiverse country in the world.

Brazil has the second-largest global variety of plant life, with at least 34,000 plant species documented.

Brazil also has an incredible array of fish, amphibians, mammals, and birds, many of whom call the Amazon Rainforest home.

The Amazon, located in Brazil, is a magical place with a remarkable amount of biodiversity.


One of the most prominent surfing destinations in the world, Australia, is home to almost 2.5 million surfers, including world champions Mick Fanning and Stephanie Gilmore, and a thriving surf community.

It also happens to be one of the most biodiverse countries in the world, coming in at rank #6 out of 201 countries.

Australia has approximately 4,992 fish species, which is the most fish species of any country in the world, according to the Global Biodiversity Index.

Australia also has the most reptile species of any country, with approximately 1,131 distinct reptile genera.

United States

The United States, home of the greatest of all time, Kelly Slater and John John Florence, has numerous world-class breaks, mainly in California and Hawaii.

Regarding overall biodiversity, the United States ranked 10th in the world.

The USA also boasts over 3,000 fish species, 530 mammal species, 844 birds, and more.

It's no surprise that the United States would rank so well, considering its vast size and wide range of climates.

Biodiversity: a key component of a thriving ecosystem | Photo: Doglioni/Creative Commons


Fiji is a beloved surfing destination, but it only ranked 128th in the study. This is due in large part to Fiji's small size.

Its most notable metrics are its robust fish and plant life; Fiji is home to over 1,300 species of fish.

This lack of biodiversity isn't surprising for a small island nation and doesn't stop Fiji from being a world-class surfing destination.


France may be famous for its architecture, culture, and food, but surfing enthusiasts also know that the west coast in places like Biarritz also offers stellar surfing conditions.

France ranked 77th in the biodiversity index, with reasonably low rankings for reptiles and amphibians.

France has a respectable array of fish, with over 800 known species.


With over 586 miles of coastline, it's no surprise that Portugal is an excellent destination for surfers.

Nazaré, with its 100-foot waves, may be the most well-known surf break in Portugal.

But as far as biodiversity, Portugal ranked 109th out of 201.

Like France, Portugal has a healthy population of fish species but floundered in the other rankings.

South Africa

The last country on our list of best surfing destinations is South Africa.

Whether in Cape Town or J-Bay, South Africa is often lauded for its excellent waves and regularly attracting Championship Tour events.

South Africa is also considered a strongly biodiverse country, ranking in 19th place.

With a staggering amount of plants, animals, and fish packed into one smaller country, it's no wonder South Africa is famous for its ecotourism and wildlife.

Biodiversity: Brazil has the world's largest variety of flora and fauna | Photo: Nylund/Creative Commons

The Future of Biodiversity

Climate change is an increasingly common conversation around the globe, and biodiversity goes hand in hand.

Climate change is one of the biggest threats to biodiversity as well as the overall well-being of the planet.

As temperatures rise and weather patterns become more extreme, many plant and animal species will struggle to survive.

Some will be able to adapt to the new conditions, but others will simply go extinct.

The loss of biodiversity will have far-reaching consequences for humans and the natural world.

In addition to the decline in ecosystems and safe, livable habitats for wildlife, biodiversity loss will also likely lead to an increase in disease outbreaks and a reduction in food production.

As biodiversity declines, so does our ability to protect against the impacts of climate change since a thriving, diverse ecosystem mitigates many of the harmful effects of climate change.

Some of the most beloved surfing hotspots are already at risk due to coastal erosion.

Popular surfing destinations such as California and Hawaii in the United States and Sydney, Australia, are all bracing for devastating coastal erosion, with places like Honolulu already losing miles of shoreline to the impacts of climate change.

To learn more about biodiversity and to see how your country ranks, read the complete Global Biodiversity Index at

Words by Matthew H. Nash | Lead Researcher at The Swiftest

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