The Impact of Climate Change on Surf, Paddle-Boarding & Our Marine Environment

15 Jan 2020

As ocean lovers, we've all heard about the growing threat of climate change. This ongoing shift in the world's climate will continue to have an effect on surf patterns and ocean life in the coming decades, so it is essential to understand what these impacts are. Here's what you need to know... 

Why Is Climate Change Such a Big Deal?

As our planet continues to warm with each passing year, it is leading to the melting of polar ice caps and ice shelves. Increasing heat also causes thermal expansion of our ocean waters. Both of these factors are contributing to rising sea levels, and over time, will have a drastic impact on our coastal areas. Average sea levels have swelled over 8 inches (about 23 cm) since 1880, with about three of those inches gained in the last 25 years.

In Australia, where the bulk of the population lives along the country's coast, we are more vulnerable to the impact of rising sea levels in the years to come.  Most experts say global warming will continue and is likely to accelerate.  This makes coastal cities particularly vulnerable.

As our coastline recedes under rising tides, our favourite surf and paddle-boarding spots will start to disappear. The changing sea levels will also affect the surf breaks. With higher water levels over the reefs, there won't be as much underwater disruption to create waves, resulting in changes to the tides. 

The effects of this will continue to trickle down to the marine life that calls the reef home. Patterns of sun exposure and water coverage on the reefs will be disrupted, which will contribute to the ongoing die-off of coral reefs. As the reefs struggle to stay alive, fish and other creatures that live in them will lose their habitats. Many species that are already threatened will find themselves on the brink of extinction, creating even more ripple effects throughout the ecosystem. 


What Does All This Means for Surfers and Paddle-Boarders?

Houses, shops and other structures that once stood along the coast could be submerged underwater. These buildings will then impact the wave patterns as they break on the shore.  In addition to disrupting the tides, they'll also create dangerous structures lurking just under the water for surfers and paddle-boarders. 


Changes to the coastline will reveal new coastal spots, but many of these locations will not be conducive to surfing or paddle-boarding due to the obstacles in the water.  While we will gain some new surf spots, we will undoubtedly lose many more - making it more difficult than ever to find places to enjoy beach-side hobbies.


Join Honu to Stand-Up Against Climate Change  

Here at Honu, we are dedicated to preserving the beach and ocean environments we all love so much. Check out our next post to learn about some easy ways you can help to protect our beaches for the enjoyment of current and future generations.