Endangered Waves


winki_215_(1).jpgPhoto courtesy of Darren Noyes-Brown Photography

Many of Australia’s best waves are endangered. Yet, unlike endangered wildlife, there are no surfbreak protection laws in Australia. Nor are the impacts on surfbreaks considered in planning and infrastructure developments.

Surfing is not just a sport. Surfing is about experiencing natural places and forces at their best and their worst. 

The Endangered Waves program aims to highlight the many threats endangering a number of Australia’s most unique and fragile surfing and coastal environments. An ‘endangered wave’ is one where the wave itself is threatened, or the immediate coastal environment and surfing amenity is threatened by one or more of the threats listed within our Endangered Waves Criteria.

View Our Endangered Waves


  1. Coastal Developments, such as breakwalls, seawalls, buildings, roads, ports, dredging, or coastal management works that cause changes to reefs, sand flows, beach shape, currents or swell. 
  2. Accessibility or Overcrowding, caused by too much or too little public access to the beach. This can result from private or public developments, such as badly planned tourism resorts, mines, infrastructure (e.g. desalination plants), defence land or farming land. This might close waves to the public or make ‘wilderness breaks’ too accessible, in both cases damaging the surf experience.
  3. Polluted Water quality from sewage or stormwater outfalls, poor development, industrial and agricultural runoff, or badly managed rivers and natural catchment areas.
  4. Visual Amenity (as seen from the shore and from the surf). The view from the surf is undervalued in most planning decisions and is spoiled by ridgeline developments and beachfront invasions. Surfers equally value what they see from the sea as well as from the shore.
  5. Ecosystem Threats, where the environmental integrity of the surfbreak is threatened, or areas adjacent to it, causing risk to aquatic or terrestrial life. For example, overuse by fisherman, surfers, divers, hikers, 4WDs or tourists may necessitate legal protection and safeguards.
  6. Climate Change will wreak havoc with surf breaks and the shape of the coast itself, tempting governments to propose physical barriers and limit access.  Rising sea levels and water temperatures will also change tides, currents, swell, banks and the weather that defines the ideal window for each surf break. Surfers will see gains and losses but, most of all, they will see uncertainty.

The threat must be identifiable and imminent and within what is regarded as a reasonable proximity to the break to warrant Surfrider Foundation listing it as an Endangered Wave. 


If you know of a threat to a wave or coastal environment that meets the criteria above please contact us outlining why it is in imminent threat. This will be reviewed against the criteria by our Campaign Committee. It is our hope that this process will shine a light on Australia's threatened coastal environments.