Photo by Roberto Lebrón
Photo by Roberto Lebrón

Punta Borinquen World Surfing Reserve

Humble efforts always pay off, so they say.

In this spirit, we proudly announce that the interdisciplinary proposal submitted for the 2019 World Surfing Reserves Competition hosted by Saves the Waves Coalition (SWC) selected Punta Borinquen, Aguadilla as the 2019 World Surfing Reserve. That is, Punta Borinquen World Surfing Reserve, from Crashboat beach to Surfers Beach, is the 1st World Surfing Reserve in Puerto Rico and the Caribbean. A job well done by the Local Stewardship Council (Council).

World Surfing Reserves (WSR) is a program of Save the Waves Coalition, a nonprofit focused exclusively on conservation of surfing coastlines on an international scale. The WSR program opens an annual competition were teams from all over the globe submit a Letter of Inquiry explaining how their proposed coastline fulfills World Surfing Reserve’s four (4) selection criterions:

  • Quality and consistency of the wave
  • Ecological significance
  • Surfing history and culture
  • Local support

The program serves as a global model for preserving wave breaks and their surrounding areas by recognizing and protecting the key environmental, cultural, economic and community attributes of surfing areas.

Back in December 2016, led by it one of it’s pillars, Nature Protection, Olita recruited and formed an interdisciplinary team of professors, students, local entities and NGO’s, and local veterans of the surf and outdoor industries to be formed as the Local Stewardship Council (Comité Timón). The LSC’s job was to create the most complete and profound application for the WSR 2017 competition. The LSC member’s were selected based on their expertise in each area of the WSR competition selection criterions, and on two values: Commitment to their discipline and Passion for the ocean.

Kathy Hall, LSC member

After a year of round table meetings, conceptualizations, team and organizational building, public and private sector entities outreach, pitch offerings and networking, and data recollection, processing, drafting, and editing (by humans), the Local Stewardship Council got the following message back in November 2017 relevant to our Punta Borinquen World Surfing Reserve Application Letter:

I wanted to let you guys know that the WSR Vision Council met last Thursday and selected Noosa, Australia as the 10th World Surfing Reserve. It was an incredibly difficult decision that was split very closely between Noosa and Borinquen. The conversation was both long and thoughtful because people were torn between the two.

The entire Vision Council was impressed with your proposal and the obvious effort that your committee put into the application. It was a very coherent proposal that clearly articulated how you meet the criteria and how the WSR can support the important conservation needs of the region. Again, it was well executed and caught the attention of each Vision Council member.

In the end, the circumstances in the wake of Hurricane Maria made it difficult for the Vision Council to approve your proposal. The primary concern was that your proposal did not demonstrate strong governmental support and the conclusion by the Vision Council is that government support would be an important ingredient for success.

A lot of us believe that the post-Maria era poses a lot of opportunity for longer term coastal planning and conservation efforts but that having committed government support for the WSR as a tool toward that end would be fundamental. So while we see the value of a WSR approval so soon after Maria, we would need to see greater buy-in from local and regional authorities before we can make the full commitment.

The Vision Council is making a unique exception this round because of our high interest in the Borinquen proposal. If you can spend some time over the next 3-6 months garnering government support and securing key letters of support at the various levels of government we would be open to re-evaluate your proposal in 6 months time. This would be our first instance approving two WSR’s in one year but we feel that your proposal and the opportunity warrant the exception.

Nick Mucha

Director of Programs

Save the Waves Coalition

The Council re-grouped and dedicated the following 6 months not only to comply with Save the Waves Coalition government support criteria but also to strengthen all elements of our application to re-submit in Sept 30, 2018 for the WSR 2019 competition. This effort let the Council to obtain the following official endorsements:  

  1. Sociedad Puertorriqueña de Planificación, the leading puertorican national entity of professional Planners, founded upon the regulation of the Institute of American Planners.
  2. Center for Applied Ocean Science and Engineering, Dept. of Engineering Science and Materials of the University of Puerto Rico, Mayagüez Campus.
  3. Office of the Program of Coastal Zone Management, the Natural Resources Dept. of Puerto Rico branch in charge of Puerto Rico’s coastal health.
  4. Para La Naturaleza, the administrative body of the Puerto Rico Conservation Trust.

A milestone achieved through those efforts was the September 27th, 2018 recognition, celebration, and endorsement of the Punta Borinquen WSR proposal by the Cámara de Representantes de Puerto Rico, PR’s Representative Chamber of the Legislature.

Representatives of the Local Stewardship Council also started dialogues with the Puerto Rico Destination Marketing Organization, a not-for-profit entity charged with promoting Puerto Rico and enhancing the long-term economic development of communities through travel and tourism. The Council also met with the Puerto Rico Outdoor Recreation Agency, an independent organization effort for the growth of the islands outdoor sports industry. The Council held a meeting with Foundation for Puerto Rico, a non-for-profit focusing economic efforts in promoting the island as a destination for the world by boosting the expansion of the visitor economy due to its short-term economic impact. Lastly, the Council sent a representative to participate in an assessment workshop held by GeoAdaptive LLC, a Boston based firm who is collaborating with the municipality of Aguadilla in the creation of an Plan of Alternative Tourism. All four entities expressed great enthusiasm  to work for the designation and development of the Punta Borinquen WSR.

After re-submitting our Letter of Inquiry to the 2019 competition, on Nov 6, 2018 we received the following message from Saves the Waves Coalition:

I am writing to share some good news! Your proposal for a Borinquen WSR has been approved! Congratulations on being selected as the 11th World Surfing Reserve. I know that this has been a lot of work for you all (and many others), and the Vision Council was very enthusiastic about your proposal. Borinquen easily meets all of the WSR criteria and you have clearly taken the time necessary to foster greater support for your WSR vision.

This year we had a number of other exciting applications, but the Vision Council overwhelmingly supported your proposal. You should be proud of the stellar proposal you submitted.

Nick Mucha

Director of Programs

Save the Waves Coalition

On a subsequent phone conference meeting, Nick Mucha and STW Executive Director, Nik Strong Cvetich, said:

“We take our hats off for the Council’s incredible job effort. Every year we receive outstanding proposals that make our decision harder every time. And this year it was no exception. But given the high capacity, expertise, and commitment that your Council exposed in their application, and given the incredible support you managed to unite in spite Hurricane Maria’s aftershocks, this year decision in favor of Punta Borinquen was almost unanimous. Your team should feel incredibly proud”

The Local Stewardship Council, whose job is to direct the development of the Punta Borinquen World Surfing Reserve, is constituted by:

André Amador, Phd (cand.), mechanical engineering – Applied Ocean Science, Scripps Institute of Oceanography, University of  California, San Diego.

Miguel Canals Silander, PhDDirector of the Center for Applied Ocean Science and Engineering of the University of Puerto Rico, Mayagüez Campus.

Miguel Figuerola – Marine Sciences Master Program of the University of Puerto Rico, Mayaguez Campus.

Luis Villanueva, MP – Sierra Club Member and proponent of the Northwest Ecological Corridor.

Kathy Hall, M.S. – Co-Founder of Liga Ecológica Puertorriqueña del Noroeste and IUCN Turtle Specialist (1983)

Ruperto Chaparro – Director of the Sea Grant College Program of the University of Puerto Rico, Mayagüez Campus

Víctor Torres – President of Surfers de Borinken Club, Organizer of the 1rst Universities Surfing Circuit of Puerto Rico,  2007 Eastern Surfing Federation Puerto Rico\Caribe District Grand Master Champion, Member of the Puerto Rico Team at the ISA Punta Roca Peru World Master Surfing Championship,  and Technical Director of the Campeonato Municipal de Surfing, Hatillo

Jim Crotty and Steve Tamar, Surfrider FoundationRincón, Chapter

Mario Felipe –  President of Rescate Playas Borinquen

Gerardo Lebrón, LLM (cand.) – Founder of Olita

Ing. Roberto Lebrón, Olita Director of Photography, Olita

Otto Flores, Punta Borinquen World Surfing Reserve Ambassador – Patagonia Global Ambassador

Nothing would have been possible without the outstanding work of all LSC members. The name of the Surfing Reserve is Punta Borinquen, and it’s ambassador is local pro surfer and environmental activist Otto Flores.