JARDIM DO MAR: GOING, GOING, GONE?

posted by / News / August 5, 2003

Anyone who’s ever battled a developer, called out a polluter or even picked up trash off the beach knows all environmental victories are temporary. The forces of evil, greed or just plain ignorance keep plowing forward, and even if you lay down in front of one bulldozer, if the spot is that valuable, there’s probably a few more revving up their engines behind it. A depressing thought, sure. And the only thing that keeps environmentalists from jumping off bridges is the time following a win: the spot is much sweeter saved than never fought for. Such was the feeling around the famed big-wave pointbreak Jardim do Mar on the Portuguese Island of Madeira last year. After a November ’02 protest-turned-riot in the little village about the construction of a wave-destroying seawall, public officials seemed to listen to surfers and environmentalists and promised to find some kind of solution that wouldn’t destroy the wave. A collective cheer rang out in the surf enviro community — maybe if we’re organized, we can make a difference.As it turns out, that was a little optimistic. Construction began in March ’03, and as of right now, it’s pretty obvious it’s going to affect the wave. Tons of rock (even pieces of the reef itself) have been dumped all along the point to make a road. And you can’t make a road so close to the ocean without protecting it, right? That’s what seawalls are for. And once the seawall goes in . . . well, can you say, “backwash”? Not like the 20-foot heaving rights were challenging enough without additional shockwaves running through ‘em.By late May, Portuguese environmental groups Cosmos and Quercus filed a complaint in Tribunal Court, but the hearing isn’t going to happen until it’s too late. Frequent Madeira visitor and Save The Waves executive director Will Henry assisted in the Nov ’02 protest and helped save another Madieran pointbreak, Lugar de Baixo in April ’01 (which, surprise, surprise, is also under threat). “The European Union earmarks money for so-called underdeveloped nations in Europe to improve infrastructure,” he explains. “And EU guidelines call for certain criterion to be fulfilled prior to commencing construction, including a public hearing and environmental impact reports — but that wasn’t done.” Roger Sharp, editor of Surf Europe magazine, isn’t optimistic. “Surfing is not seen as a valuable resource there,” he says. “They just don’t care.”But Henry takes the “environmentalists make shitty neighbors but great ancestors” stance and continues: “We’ve all wondered, what if the surfers had stood up to save Killer Dana, Petacalco and La Barre? Well, now we have a ‘what if’ that we can do something about. I’m really hoping that this issue makes some people in the $5 billion surfwear industry wake up and smell the seawater.” –Will Henry. And stay tuned to Save the Wave's website for updates.]

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