The science4surfing project collects the local ecological knowledge of surfers -- wave knowledge -- from around the world and uses it to learn more about the coastlines we all rely on. With this knowledge, we can better understand the impacts of climate change, coastal management, and other activities -- human-caused and natural -- that affect the places and waves we know and love.
In 2014, we surveyed surfers in California and elsewhere and with the knowledge they shared, developed first-ever projections for how sea level rise will alter our wavescape. A paper describing these projections, co-authored with Meg Caldwell and Leif Thomas, was published in the scientific journal "Ocean and Coastal Management" in 2017 (view article). The outlook does not look good: we found that the best wave conditions at more than one-third of the surf breaks in California we surveyed will likely drown by the end of the century.
Working with Stanford University alumnus Diego Sancho in Costa Rica in 2016, we expanded upon our 2014 methods to further explore the implications of climate change on three of CR's most renowned surf breaks: Pavones, Tamarindo, and Hermosa.
The story in Costa Rica is a little more complicated (read more about it here), but as with California and many other beaches and waves worldwide, many of the most severe impacts of climate change on our coasts can be mitigated if we let natural coastal processes take their course. Interventions like armoring and seawalls can restrict the coastal environment's ability to adapt to environmental change and maintain the quality of resources -- like waves -- that are so important and so sensitive.