Surf’s Up! Save the Beaches and Make Waves [updated]
Whenever an ocean or marine natural resource topic drifts in, some debaters are drawn to alternative ocean energy projects. What if we could generate limitless energy from ocean waves? Or maybe energy could be extracted from temperature differentials between the shallow and deep ocean? Along the coast of northern states, where tides rise and fall each day, tidal flows could power submerged turbines (tidal energy from Puget Sound is discussed in this post).
Many such alternative energy projects have been tried, but so far none have generated enough energy to pay for investment and operating costs. But there is a cost-effective wave energy technology that’s been developed and deployed in the southern hemisphere. Shorelines can be protected and ideal surf created.
Enthusiasm for wave and tidal energy came from environmental concerns and the desire to reduce oil imports. But over the last five years the astonishing increase of shale gas has significantly reduced emissions. And vast shale gas and oil deposits are now available, thanks to advances in horizontal drilling and hydraulic fracturing.
Energy from ocean waves is still in high demand, especially in California and Hawaii, where surfers rely on all-natural wave energy for their daily exercise and entertainment. More waves more often, in more locations could attract tens of thousands of young people to the active surfing life-style, and away from passive video games, movies and amusement parks.
The Boscombe Surf Reef was a project of a New Zealand company and installed in Dorset, UK. However, the reef was damaged by boat propellers and the company is out of business. This April, 2013 BBC News article reports that the company director has gone missing. It’s unfortunate for surfers and for Dorset tourism that this $5 million dollar artificial reef project is broken and bankrupt (unfortunate for investor too).
Artificial reefs still have great promise for protecting valuable coastlines at risk by storm wave erosion. And artificial reef promoters claim they can both protect shorelines and create excellent surfing waves (of course, if the waves created are too gnarly, they also wipe out beach homes).
But seriously, coastal erosion is an expensive problem. Millions of dollars are spent each year trucking in sand to try to restore beaches after storms have carried tons of sand away.
This article discusses an artificial reef in India that accomplishes the dual goal of protecting coastlines and generating waves for surfing.
As surfers, we often wonder why we don’t use the ocean’s natural forces to help stabilize coastal erosion. Traveling around the world we often see many beaches with the perfect setup of great waves over an offshore reef and calmer nearshore waters, resulting in a balanced environment so the beach doesn’t erode.
Our current coastal erosion strategy appears to be nothing more than a gigantic bandaid that siphons millions of dollars from our economy on a regular cycle. Well, perhaps the first step toward a more practical solution has finally arrived.
Surfer story on India’s First Artificial Reef. [But, yikes! this June, 2014 update on the decline of the reef: “PIPE DREAMS: The reality of artificial reefs” Apparently the artificial reef has fallen apart, rarely generates good surfing waves, does generate a strong rip tide, and had been called a waste of money. As Robert Burns wrote: The best-laid schemes o’ mice an’ men, Gang aft agley, An’ lea’e us nought but grief an’ pain…]
Maybe multi-purpose reefs will find a home in the U.S. But if I had to guess, I’d guess state and federal regulations make it difficult to impossible to deploy these reefs. So for California homeschool debaters looking to convince homeschool surfer friends to join the debate club, here is your opportunity.
Video from ASR Limited: