Lynmouth: one of the jewels of North Devon, England | Photo: Ester Spears

England's North Devon is the 12th World Surfing Reserve. Welcome to the ultimate UK surf ecosystem.

The southwest British world-class surf zone stretches across 19 miles (30 kilometers) of coastlines.

North Devon features several iconic surf breaks, including Croyde, Lynmouth, Saunton, and Woolacombe.

The protected surfing beaches provide spectacular conditions for all types of level surfers - first-timers, beginners, intermediate, and advanced wave riders.

The local sandy surf spots deliver gentle-peeling rollers and fast, long and powerful, high-performance tapering walls of saltwater.

North Devon has a rich surf culture, and its surfing life flourishes around unique natural surroundings and a passional community.

It is the home of the sport's national governing body Surfing England, the Museum of British Surfing, and several surf brands.

According to a 2008 study, surfing contributes with over £50 million per year to the local economy and fuels around 1,500 jobs.

Woolacombe: North Devon has amazing beach breaks | Photo: Gordon Dryburgh

To Have and to Hold

Kevin Cook is one of North Devon's surfing pioneers.

"Cookie" shaped his first surfboard in 1968 and was responsible for proposing North Devon as a World Surfing Reserve.

"We must protect the unique surfing environment of North Devon so that we can ensure future generations can experience the magic and beauty of being at one with the ocean," underlines Cook.

"Water quality is good, but we need water companies to invest more in infrastructure."

North Devon's Local Stewardship Council designed a plan to improve the conservation of the coastline and waves.

Surfers Against Sewage, North Devon UNESCO Biosphere, and Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB) are some of the groups involved in the region's stewardship plan.

Their ultimate goal is to protect the surf breaks and the waves from water quality and pollution, harmful coastal development, the impacts of climate change, and limited coastal access.

North Devon is the first-ever cold water World Surfing Reserve and the first of its kind in the United Kingdom.

Putsburough: a spectacular British wave now protected as a World Surfing Reserve | Photo: Rob Tibbles

What is a World Surfing Reserve?

A World Surf Reserve (WSR) is all about good waves - and surfing - and about looking out for those waves.

"To create a WSR, you need certain things to come together in alignment. It could be a variety of good waves or just one single break," notes Kevin Cook.

"We're looking at a super environment; a place where Nature is actually also present in spades so that it really represents our world at its best, through the variety of marine creatures, the cleanliness of the water, the background, the surrounding, the environment, and its totality."

"You then need to have a strong surfing culture - something that gives a sense of history to the place you're talking about, that shows the people have cared about a place for a long time, and that surfing is being really important to the local people."

"You also need to have something that shows that the community itself has benefited in some way from the presence of surfing and the people enjoying themselves like that - that people make money from it, and they enjoy it."

"You have to have a group who identify themselves as custodians of the place, something we call a stewardship council."

When all these features align, a World Surfing Reserve can be established.

The World Surfing Reserves program was launched in 2009 by Save the Waves Coalition.

Since its creation, it has dedicated and protected Malibu and Santa Cruz (California), Ericeira (Portugal), the Gold Coast, Manly and Noosa (Australia), Punta de Lobos (Chile), Huanchaco (Peru), Guarda do Embau (Brazil), and Bahia de Todos Santos (Mexico).

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