As a student you will hardly stumble upon a professor who is an ocean lover, dedicated surfer and ambassador of nature in one person. Juan Jose “Juanjo” Trueba from the University of Comillas is such a guy: a stylish surfer, an academic and a man with one vision: Europe’s surf breaks being protected by law and declared “patrimonio” (heritage) one day.
Juanjo, profesor of the international centre for superior Spanish studies at the partly private university Fundación Comillas, spent a good part of his recent academic years creating a strong statement for ocean and especially wave protection: “The Manifesto to Protect the Ocean Waves of Spain” – an academic document that could probably path the way to keep Europe’s surf breaks safe from destruction so that we can hand it over as a heritage to the next generation. One astonishing fact is that
Over decades we have seen so many surf breaks around Europe’s pristine coast vanishing: On the Canary’s, in the Basque Country, in Cantabria. Look at whatever region and you’ll find so many jewels of nature to be gone forever. The reason? Most of the time it’s dredging of sand to broaden or deepen port entrances, or the construction of harbor walls to protect incoming ships from swells. And then there is also the spoiling of waste and toxic substances that make it almost impossible to surf at many beaches.
“Ocean waves – as part of our life and part of the coastal environment – have to be protected” states Juanjo digging deeper: “We have to get governments and organizations and the local population around surf breaks recognize their beaches as a heritage and a social-economic resource. Most importantly waves have to be seen as a natural phenomena belonging to the beach. We must not destroy more of them!”.
“It was so difficult to define what makes a surf break a surf break. There is so many variables one has to put into consideration: The currents, the ground below the wave, the direction a beach faces, weather phenomena, the environment around the beach. And that’s just the natural variables. You also have to take a look on the local culture and especially the surf culture to create a holistic approach to wave protection. It took some experts in different academic fields to find a methology to precisely define the manifesto.”
“The manifesto to protect the waves in Spain is the basis for a mutual agreement between surfers, officials and organizations to have a common ground to start talks. When a local community accepts the manifesto they are supposed to respect its arguments and they are also supposed to not destroy surf breaks by constructing the next bigger harbor wall. Nevertheless the manifesto is not more than a good first step. There has to be taken a lot more action than me writing an academic paper to really protect our beloved surf breaks. My work is just the starting point and if it could help to keep our waves safe I am happy.”
So far, the manifesto was accepted by all surf federations of Spain. Juanjo gets calls from many officials around the country. Ribamontan del Mal (Cantabria) was recently declared 1st Spanish surfing reserve. Juanjo does not know if his work will help to protect the ocean in the end, nonetheless he is happy trying to do so.