Peniche: the world's first surfing destination to be benchmarked for sustainable surf tourism | Photo: Stoke Certified

Peniche has become the world's first surfing destination to be benchmarked for sustainable surf tourism.

Stoke Certified representatives met with various stakeholders in Peniche over the course of two weeks to evaluate the destination's tourism plan, community development, cultural heritage preservation, surf resource management, and environmental conservation initiatives.

The assessment benchmarked Peniche against the new Stoke Surf Destinations standard of 84 criteria, which was built on the foundation of the Global Sustainable Tourism Council's Destination Criteria and adapted to the unique sustainability challenges that coastal communities and surf tourism destinations face.

"Surfing has put Peniche on the global tourism radar and completely transformed our economy over the past decade," said António José Correia, the mayor of Peniche.

"Our participation in the program has provided us with an objective evaluation of our tourism industry, and resulted in a comprehensive and innovative plan to secure a sustainable future for Peniche as a major international surf destination."

"We are proud to be the first surf destination in the world to take this important step toward sustainability and look forward to working with Stoke on the path to certification."

Following the site visit, Stoke Certified developed a roadmap to certification report that outlines strategies for closing the compliance gaps identified in the benchmark in order to improve sustainable destination management practices and achieve certification in the next few years.

Peniche: the Wave Capital | Photo: Stoke Certified

"Portugal has prioritized surf tourism at the national level, and Peniche is a glowing example of the country's potential to become an international leader in sustainable tourism and surf resource management," added Stoke Certified co-founder, Carl Kish.

"We commend Peniche for capitalizing on its diverse array of tourism assets and empowering its local network of passionate stakeholders to create a plan for developing a well-rounded tourism experience."

"One that encompasses world class surf breaks and ocean sports, unique biodiversity and geological anomalies, and rich cultural heritage representative of the Romans, bobbin lace, fishing, religion, and political revolution," 

Peniche's push for Stoke Surf Destinations certification has been driven by Mayor Correia and the Municipality of Peniche and supported by faculty and researchers from the Instituto Politécnico de Leiria (IPL).

The development of the Stoke Surf Destinations standard has been over a year in the making, and now the criteria have been tested in the field and will continue to be refined as more destinations join the Stoke network.

The Stoke criteria for surf tourism operators underwent the same process six years ago and has expanded to nine members in six countries becoming the international sustainability standard for surf tourism.

"Peniche is taking control of its destiny as a surfing destination and by adopting Stoke's Surf Destinations standard has positioned itself on the cutting edge of surf destination management," continued Stoke Certified co-founder, Dr. Jess Ponting. 

Peniche: home of the Rip Curl Pro Portugal | Photo: Poullenot/WSL

Beyond surf break protection and surf school regulation, Stoke's standard involves:

1. Developing organizational infrastructure to diversify the tourism base by incorporating other natural and cultural wonders of Peniche;

2. Developing strategies for improving the quality of the surf tourism while respecting the needs of local surfers;

3. Facilitating innovation in developing sustainability best practices across transportation, accommodation, and resource management that complement the great work the municipality is already doing.

Stoke certification will ensure that in addition to the region's position at the center of Portugal's surf tourism industry, Peniche will highlight its other treasures including:

1. The 18,500 hectare UNESCO Biosphere Reserve that includes Berlengas Island and the peninsula of Peniche;

2. The 16th-century fortresses and the political prison that played a significant role in Portugal's political revolution of 1974;

3. Its ancient Roman history intertwined with lively and vibrant fishing and bobbin lace traditions.

Initiatives like the WaveRoller wave energy project, West Region Geopark, and the Municipality's alternative transportation plan, will propel the destination into a best practice leader.