The Banzai Pipeline in Oahu, Hawaii … Mavericks off the California Coast … Surfrider Beach in Malibu … could global warming impact legendary surfing sites?

Some are concerned that climate change may lead to smaller waves in many areas. For example, in parts of the North Atlantic, average wave heights are expected to decrease.

But Chad Nelsen, CEO of the nonprofit Surfrider Foundation, says wave heights are not the main reason surfing hot-spots are threatened:

Nelsen: “The way that climate change is going to impact surfing isn’t going to be the sort of meteorological or oceanographic changes necessarily as much as man’s response to them.”

Nelsen says shoreline armoring and beach replenishment — while necessary to protect coastal cities from storm surge and sea level rise — may mean the end of surfing in many areas.

He also points to the fact that many of the world’s greatest surf spots are coral reef surf breaks.

Nelsen: “All of those reefs are threatened by ocean acidification from climate change, so climate change is something that’s really going to affect surfers the world over, and is something we should be paying attention to.”

Reporting credit: ChavoBart Digital Media.
Top Photo: Copyright Robwilson39,, Surfing Photo.

Chart: Ocean Acidification Chemistry (source: National Research Council).

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Julia Kumari Drapkin

Julia Kumari Drapkin founded ISeeChange after a decade of reporting natural disasters and climate change across the globe and in her own backyard on the Gulf Coast. She is the founder of ISeeChange, a...