How to… build a surfing reef in 10 steps
Following is a simplified 10 step action plan to build a surfing reef.
The Surfing Ramps approach to design and development is from an environmental perspective, ‘designing with nature’. Surfing Ramps shares this unique process...
1.) Establish your goal: enhancing an existing surf spot? Hazard removal, or creating a new surf spot? Building a reef for long peeling waves or short tubing peaks? Are you an 'add-on' to an existing beach sand nourishment project? Do you require a consistent surf spot, surfable through a variety of conditions? Establishing your goal is critical to the success of your project.
2.) Gather your team, establish a team or committee: include a diverse range of skills, people with standing in the local community. Do not under estimate the politics of your project, good people skills are an essential.
3.) Surf spot analysis: do an overview of the existing surf spots in your region, your ‘surf spot cluster’. Identify big wave spots, small waves spots, fun waves, death waves, beach breaks, reefs, bombora's, popular spots and unpopular. For each spot, define the range of wave heights and swell directions, include surfable and optimal. Keep a simple record, a 'surf diary', of how many days per year each spot is surfed.
4.) Environmental analysis: depending on your location, this data is publicly available. Compile wave data: include height, period, direction, frequency, seasonal variation and note swell windows and shadows relative to your local surf spot cluster. Same for wind data: direction, strength, frequency and seasonal variations. Maintain a daily 'surf diary'. Tidal variations? can be extremely relevant or not relevant depending on your region. Submerged geology? Sand, boulder field, sedimentary stone, igneous rock, coral or a combination of several, for example sand over bedrock? Longshore drift?
5.) Human needs analysis: do a survey of local surfers, what are their needs? Identify what features are missing from your surf spot cluster. No big wave spots? No spots working on south swells? No consistent surf spots close to town? No surf spots in summer season? SWOT your surf spots, what are the strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats facing your local surf spots. This is the start of your community consultation. You are going public with your proposal, consider your approach and methods carefully.
Stop. Re-visit your goal. Is it still relevant? Are you still creating a local big wave spot? Or, a safe peeling point break for beginners? Removing hazards from a selection of surfing reefs? Or extending an existing reef to create longer waves? Are you creating a wave for surfboardriders, bodyboarders, long boarders or kite surfers? Or do you just want a new break within easy access of town?
6.) Make a short list of proposed sites and a short list of construction methods: your goal should determine your site, your site should determine your construction method to one or more of the following:
7.) Budget and funding: start by raising your own cash, seek contributions from local business. If you can raise cash locally, it demonstrates community support, then Government funding agencies will take you more seriously and co-contribute $$. For example more than $300,000 was raised by the local surfing community in Mount Maunganui NZ to build a reef. Cost your varied options. Construction in the marine environment is comparatively expensive. If a shore based construction is available, it will be more cost effective. Consider commonly available long armed cranes to deposit reef components. Locations with small wave climates and extreme tides offer unique opportunities, see Burkitts Reef, Bargara Qld Aust. For marine based construction, for example from a barge, where is your nearest harbour? Availability of equipment, plant and barges? Are there predictable ‘flat spells’ in a particular season to allow marine construction.
8.) Select a site and secure a bathymetric survey (a topographic map of the seabed). Start by searching for existing surveys and marine charts. Mark on your map the existing wave breaking zones, especially at maximum wave heights, from a variety of viewpoints. The aim is to identify existing underwater ridge lines that impact existing wave breaking patterns. What's happening with your community consultation?
9.) Prepare a development application. Environmental and social impact will be the most critical issues. If your proposed site overlaps with an another user group, for example a boat ramp or tidal rock pool, pick another site. A well respected committee with standing in the community will be able to overcome unreasonable objections. Respond quickly to people that feel threatened by change, listen to their concerns. Community consultation is a priority. The development application process and scope will vary depending on your location.
10.) Build it. Development Application approved. Funding locked in. Reef design consistent with your goals. Plan your construction stages to finish sections of the reef to provide immediate impact on wave breaking patterns. A partially finished reef runs the risk of losing community support because the wave breaking results are not immediately obvious. Finished reef. Congratulations, but…put in place a maintenance and monitoring program, check the reef for movement, settlement or dislocation. How many extra surfable days per year does your reef provide? What do the surfing users really say about your reef? If your project is part of a series of regional surfing reef improvements, user feedback will assist. Please share what you have learnt.
Andrew Pitt © 2011