Trent Hodges worked with Save the Waves in Bahia Todos Santos in Northern Baja, Mexico. The project has three objectives: first, to assist with the development and implementation of an economic valuation study for surfing resources in the bay. This information will be used to show policy makers the importance of maintaining the ecological integrity of the coastal ecosystems and the economic benefits the sport of surfing provides to the community; second, to assist in logistical support for the World Surf Reserve dedication on June 21 in Ensenada; third, to assist in the Local Stewardship Project of San Miguel ,which includes the promotion of the arroyo San Miguel as Baja California’s first state park.
Today, June 12, 2014, I complete my first month living in Ensenada and working with Save the Waves Coalition. It has been an engaging and productive experience. The Bahia Todos Santos World Surfing Reserve was dedicated on the 17 of June with a paddle-out, speeches from various stakeholders including the local government, famous local and international surfers, and conservation partners such as Surf-Ens and Wildcoast who all have contributed to making this project a reality.
Now that the party is over, I am faced with many questions and challenges. What does a World Surfing Reserve mean? What is surfonomics? How will a dollar value on a wave save the coast? These are the questions I continually find myself responding to among the local community and topics I am continually trying to frame in my own mind. The truth is, there are no easy answers to these questions and a World Surfing Reserve is only a drawing board and platform for communication and planning in the preservation of coastal resources. More than anything, it is an empowerment tool, a way for local surfers, community members, and conservationists to celebrate the coastline they possess and envision a future with healthy waves and a healthy local economy.
Throughout the first month of work down here in Baja, my work has been focused in three directions. The first is building the surfonomics research plan to capture the economic value of surfing in the World Surfing Reserve from locals to international surfers. This work has included a lot of survey design, methodology planning, and capacity building. The second goal has been to promote this project and involve all relevant parties. The surf community in Ensenada is vibrant and large, so a lot of my work has been reaching out to surf schools, surf groups, artists, and interested parties to get them excited about participating in this research and training them to carry it out themselves. The third has been to assist a local NGO Pronatura in the designation of a state park in the river of San Miguel, a critical watershed for the formation of the famous right-hand point break that forms at the mouth of the river.
It has been a great experience diving into this place and understanding the challenges that come with community conservation planning in a city where the economy rides the waves of tourism, harbors fish processing plants, and hosts global commerce activities in the port of Ensenada. What has become more and more clear is the importance of assigning value to coastal recreation and the associated economic and societal benefits. On a coastline that has seen so much destructive and poorly planned development, waves and surfing have continuously provided the people of Ensenada with a recreation outlet and added a continued source of economic generation for the communities that we will now be able to measure.
As the south swells begin to fill in and we begin the process of surveying the traveling and local surf community, I look forward to seeing the surf community unify in the goal of protecting their waves in perpetuity. With the monetary values of their waves in hand, they will have peaceful economic weapon to counter-attack the forthcoming and present threats to their coastal zone.