Santa Cruz Chapter

Santa Cruz World Surfing Reserve


On April 28, 2012, approximately 7 miles of the Santa Cruz city and county coast became the official 4th World Surfing Reserve on the planet.

Our Santa Cruz Chapter advocated for this honor for two years, so we’re stoked to see it happen.  Chapter leaders Dustin Macdonald and Jim Littlefield are members of the Local Stewardship Council for the SCWSR, a group charged with watching over it for anything which might damage it.

Following a Surfline report on the Santa Cruz World Surfing Reserve, May 1, 2012

What do you picture when someone mentions the words, “Santa Cruz”? Do you recall kelp-dicing rollercoasters determining the champion of the O’Neill Coldwater Classic? Do you conjure three and a half decades of dizzying aerial conquests, from the Kevin Reed days to Ratboy Mania and beyond?

Or do you gaze out upon the blue-green horizon, past a thick marine layer, toward the upcoming ASP World Tour event this November? Whatever your image du jour, Santa Cruz is synonymous with three things that are certainly in that image somewhere: cold, clean water, diverse wavescapes and revolutionary surfing.

Therefore, all the media reverence and big-money contests in the world still aren’t enough to properly spotlight this very special corner of America.

“The Santa Cruz World Surfing Reserve implicitly underscores the importance of our waves and coastline,” supports Pat O’Neill, President and CEO of O’Neill Wetsuits. “It provides additional worldwide recognition to what we have long known and cherished: that Santa Cruz is a unique place worth protecting for our families and future generations.” 

Santa Cruz was approved as a World Surfing Reserve in February 2011 after fulfilling the following criteria

1) Wave Quality/ Consistency: Housing more than 23 surf spots including the iconic Steamer Lane, Santa Cruz’s surf zone — which stretches from Natural Bridges on the “Westside” to Opal Cliffs, east of Pleasure Point — is undeniably rich in both;

2) Unique Environmental Characteristics: Santa Cruz provides habitat for one of the most robust coastal and marine ecosystems on the planet;

3) Surf Culture/ History: Santa Cruz is the birthplace of surfing on the North American continent and has played a pivotal role in the creation and development of the surfing wetsuit, which opened up the sport to new regions around the world; and

4) Community Support: “We are so blessed in this community,” prides Santa Cruz Vice-Mayor Hilary Bryant, a surfer who serves on the Santa Cruz Local Stewardship Council, providing ongoing oversight for the Reserve. “As important as our parks are, the waves are important to us, too.”

As it stands, only three other surfing destinations in the world currently claim such status — Malibu (California), Ericeira (Portugal) and Manly Beach (Australia). “This honor is perfect for Santa Cruz,” says longboarding icon and The Endless Summer 2 star Robert “Wingnut” Weaver, who will serve as ambassador to the Santa Cruz World Surfing Reserve. “We are ground zero for surfing on the mainland. No town deserves it more.”

The town was celebrated in a series of events, the first being an “Evolution of the Wetsuit” fashion show on Friday night at the Cocoanut Grove along the Santa Cruz Wharf. Using local surf celebrities as models, the show traced the evolution and development of the modern surfing wetsuit, from the crude wetsuit precursor of the 1950s (a high-waistline, Speedo-type, belted wool swimsuit) to O’Neill’s current high-tech design.

The following morning, Ohlone Native American Indian Elder and Shaman Patrick Orozco led a spiritual blessing ceremony on the beach at Pleasure Point, followed by a moving song by local musician/surfer Ashley Lloyd. Then surfers paddled out into the kelp-thick waters to unite in a circle and pay tribute toSanta Cruz’s natural and cultural surfing heritage. Local icon Jack O’Neill even came out onto the balcony of his house there and saluted the surfers, which drew a ruckus from the surfers in the water. After that, an official dedication ceremony commenced at Steamer Lane in front of the Santa Cruz Surfing Museum, complete with inspirational speeches from a variety of spokesmen, including local surfing legends, environmental warriors and esteemed public officials.

The community gathered at the Lighthouse lawn at Steamer Lane for the official dedication ceremony on Saturday afternoon, absorbing powerful words from local leaders on the importance of protecting Santa Cruz’s waves and coastline; after which, the members of the Local Stewardship Council signed a plan for the ongoing management and stewardship of the Santa Cruz World Surfing Reserve. This plan outlines how the group would respond to threats that may arise, what type of stewardship activities the group will carry out, and how the group will reach out to the general public to provide education about Santa Cruz’s incredible surfing resources and how to protect them.

“Santa Cruz is a leader not only in the surfing world but also in maintaining a tremendous environmental legacy,” said Save The Waves Board President and World Surfing Reserves Executive Committee member Dean LaTourrette. “We’re excited to honor this heritage and to work with the community to build increased layers of environmental protection.”


DOWNLOAD the Santa Cruz World Surfing Reserve Booklet!


We sincerely thank all the wonderful photographers who contributed to this webpage: Kelly Vander Kaay; Howard “Boots” McGhee; Sam O’Rourke; Ryan Craig; Jim Littlefield; William Henry; Joan Littlefield; the Santa Cruz Surfing Club archives; and the Santa Cruz Sentinel

Local Stewardship Council

An important requirement of every WSR is the establishment of a Local Stewardship Council to watch over the reserve and guard against any potential damage.

Thanks to the SCWSR’s first Local Stewardship Council:

Hilary Bryant; Vice-Mayor, City of Santa Cruz

Brian Kilpatrick; O’Neill Wetsuits

John Leopold; Santa Cruz County Supervisor

Jim Littlefield; West Coast Environmental Projects Director, Surfers’ Environmental Alliance *Chair of LSC

Dustin Macdonald; Chair, Santa Cruz Chapter of the Surfrider Foundation

Jane McKenzie; Past president, Santa Cruz Longboard Union

Mark Stone; Santa Cruz County Supervisor; California Coastal Commission

Dan Young; Santa Cruz Surf Club Preservation Society; Santa Cruz Surfing Museum  

Thanks for all the coastal-group support

Surfers’ Environmental Alliance(SEA);

Santa Cruz Chapter of the Surfrider Foundation;

Save Our Shores;

Sierra Club;

Ocean Revolution;

Santa Cruz Surfing Museum;

Thanks to all our key supporters  

World Surfing Reserves Executive Committee;

World Surfing Reserves Vision Council;

Santa Cruz County Board of Supervisors;

Santa Cruz City Council;

U.S. Congressman Sam Farr;

California Senator Joe Simitian;

California Assemblyman Bill Monning;

California Coastal Commission

What is a world surfing reserve?


World Surfing Reserves aims to proactively designate and preserve outstanding waves, surf zones and their surrounding environments, around the world. The program will serve as a global model for preserving wave breaks and their surrounding areas by recognizing the positive environmental, social, cultural and economic benefits of waves.


Save The Waves Coalition, along with key partners National Surfing Reserves (NSR) Australia and the International Surfing Association (ISA), launched World Surfing Reserves in 2009, and is implementing the global program’s first enshrinements in 2010. The initiative will create a “UNESCO of surfing” to educate the world on the tremendous universal value of these special places, and provide tools to help local communities better protect cherished surf breaks.

Why is Santa Cruz a world surfing reserve?

Surfing, the ocean, beaches and waves characterize Santa Cruz and Santa Cruz County in the memory and imagination of people around the world. And why not? The world-class surf breaks constitute a cold-water dream for surfers; the beaches invite relaxation; and the ocean and waves beckon us to recreate. So, when someone mentions “Santa Cruz”, surfing automatically springs to mind. That’s why when locals speak of “Surf City Santa Cruz” we really believe it!

Santa Cruz was selected as a World Surfing Reserve exactly because of our excellent quality surf breaks, a proven record as an environmentally conscious and active community, wide-spread public enthusiasm for such an honor, and the strong thread of surf culture and the surfing lifestyle that helps characterize daily life for countless local residents and visitors;

Our coast’s many breaks host numerous surf contests year ‘round at all levels of proficiency, pro to beginner, school leagues to club contests; we have many outstanding and well-known competitive surfers raised and based in our communities; and we find a strong and active surf culture exists in Santa Cruz and Santa Cruz County, making our communities home to numerous surf shops, board makers, surf gear manufacturers, and surf-related businesses.

“There is no more iconic place for surfing in California or the contiguous United States than Santa Cruz. The stretch also includes Jack O’Neill’s house, probably the most iconic structure in the surfing world.” says Mark Stone,California Coastal Commissioner; Santa Cruz County Supervisor. 11-18-10

“This is a major global honor for Santa Cruz City and County, and will help focus public attention on the need to protect our irreplaceable coastal environment, including surfbreaks and the unique physical conditions that allow them to exist,” Jim Littlefield, (SEA) adds.–Santa Cruz  Sentinel  3-12-2011

The Santa Cruz World Surfing Reserve is located on the northern side of Monterey Bay along California’s Central Coast within the protected coastal waters of the Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary. The Reserve stretches approximately 7 miles from Natural Bridges State Park in the City of Santa Cruz on the west end eastward along the city and county coast to the Opal Cliffs in Santa Cruz County. At least 23 consistent surf breaks are sited along this coast, including the world-class breaks of Steamer Lane and Pleasure Point. Most are reef breaks or beach breaks with a few outstanding point breaks, and almost all naturally break right within this zone. Winter is always the best time for surfing consistent waves.

The breaks are rated from “expert” to “beginner” and are used by surfers throughout the year, so surfers of all ages and levels can find a suitable wave in the area. Surfing contests from pros to clubs to schools are frequent and popular. Beach and surf access is generally good along this coast, and most of the beach areas in the SCWSR are overseen either by California State Parks; the City of Santa Cruz; or Santa Cruz County.

“I can’t think of a more deserving location thanSanta Cruz,” said Jack O’Neill, wetsuit inventor and local legend. “It’s got so many amazing surf spots, a wonderful surf community, and it’s just a beautiful stretch of coast. The World Surfing Reserve designation will be a great way to help preserve the area.”—New “World Surfing Reserves” Surfer magazine 2-12-2011