Fake waves on the coast: a story of non-sense


In the town of Saint-Jean-de-Luz, France, surfers and residents are taking a stand against plans to build an artificial wave pool, just 1.5 km from the ocean. The company Boardriders has commissioned Wavegarden to build a 7-hectare leisure center dedicated to touristic and commercial purposes right behind their European headquarters. Surfrider Europe commits to fighting the construction by launching an official Coastal Defenders action.   

What would be the environmental cost?   

From the project proposal, the wave pool complex is totally inconsistent with ecological stakes we are currently facing.  

Indeed, this complex would include a 155m-long pool containing the equivalent of 15 Olympic pools, but also stores, bars, restaurants and a hotel among other concrete infrastructures built by destroying a meadow and centenary natural forest. Soil artificialization, biodiversity loss, excessive water and energy consumption, contribution to global warming… Is it worth it in an area known for world-class waves and consistent, year-long swell? We don't think so.   

© Yann Renauld 

Human’s pressure on ecosystems is already way too high and has only increased in the past years. Why not try to reverse the current trend or at least preserve existing natural areas? 

A project against surfing values  

“This passion driving us, is first and foremost a state of mind, a way to be in our lives the way we are in the water, listening to the elements to catch waves wherever and whenever they show, in a spirit of humility, respecting this environment.”  

Like Léa Brassy, one of the region’s most respected and talented surfers, would tell you, surfing is above all a connection to nature. One must learn how to read the waves, patiently wait for the right one, face their power, smell the salty water while respecting the fragile marine ecosystem… That is surfing! Nothing to do with surf parks’ chlorinated waves triggered by computers. 

It is even more non-sense knowing that this artificial wave pool will be located 1.5km away from the ocean in the Basque Country which is saturated with surf spots for all levels at any time of the year

Today, surfing natural waves is free. No matter how much time is spent in the water, surfing in the ocean does not cost any more than the material needed to take part. However, a session in an artificial surfing pool costs on average 60€ per hour, making it a very elitist sport, pretty far away from its DNA.   

When strength lies in numbers 

Facing this project against nature, Herri Berri, the official opposition group to Saint-Jean-de-Luz town council, decided to act by starting a petition, which has already gathered tens of thousands of signatures. The movement against the project is now led by a citizen collective Rame pour ta Planète partnered with Surfrider Europe’s local chapter, Surfrider Côte Basque

All arguments against the project have been published on the website www.stop-surf-park-saint-jean-de-luz.com explaining the “24 reasons to say no to Saint-Jean-de-Luz surf park project”. Léa Brassy, surfer and eco-engaged water-woman has written opinion pages to say “No, not in my name”, already signed by the biggest names in French surfing and by thousands of Ocean lovers. 

Today, Surfrider Foundation Europe commits to protecting this valuable coastal area by opening a Coastal Defender action to provide expert support and resources to the opposition.   

By taking this next step to fight the wave pool project, the organization demonstrates its commitment to maintaining the integrity of our environment and to preserve the core values of what makes surfing special: a deep connection to, and appreciation of, the power of nature. Surfrider Europe will always take a stand to protect the places we love from projects that are disconnected with Ocean health and preservation

Economic incentive cannot prevail. Surf cannot lose its magic at the expense of a nature that gave its birth. It is not too late to act, once again, let us make the Ocean voice heard with all its power. 

The project at a standstill 

If the project of the surf park of Saint-Jean-de-Luz is today "stopped" because the company Boardriders has "other priorities" (Mediabask source), the mobilized associations remain vigilant. The members of the Rame pour ta Planète collective and of the Côte Basque chapter of Surfrider Europe will remain mobilized until proof is obtained that the land in question retains its natural and/or agricultural vocation, and that one bad idea is not replaced by another equally destructive proposal. To permanently preserve this natural space, an educational farm project has been proposed. The contestation of the surf park project must have a positive outcome and lead to a project at the service of the inhabitants of Saint-Jean-de-Luz.

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The passion for the oceans, the coastline and the pleasures animate everyone who supports Surfrider and guides the organization's action.


Surfrider is rooted in the value of sharing and participation through inclusion and diversity.


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