Chile's Punta de Lobos Saved From Development

Jason Lock

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Updated 15d ago

After years of hard fought battle, the sweeping vistas that overlook one of the world's most iconic left-hand pointbreaks will be protected from mass development.

A group of dedicated campaigners, under the guidance of big wave hellman Ramón Navarro, spearheaded an initiative to protect the natural beauty of Chile's Punta de Lobos from development.

And recently, the land overlooking the XXL spot was officially purchased, with help from sponsors and donations, and then transferred to a group called the Foundacion Punta de Lobos, led by Ramón, whose aim is to prevent future developments and enhance the area.

“The most important thing is what this place will be for future generations,” Ramón says. "I want my son to be able to enjoy this place as I did, and I’ve been learning that anything is possible when communities come together to find common ground. I want my son to be able to enjoy this place as I did, and I’ve been learning that anything is possible

“For me, this work is really about leaving a legacy, and the only way to accomplish that is by being an example and protecting the places that gave me the memories I cherish. As a surfer, contests and trophies are good for your ego and that’s about it. But saving a wave is forever.”

As with most efforts to block development that encroaches on the natural beauty of an area, this campaign has been faced with set-backs and small wins as it clawed towards its ultimate goal. Originally, the movement launched in 2013, in response to planning authorities approving a real estate development along the cliffs that overlook the world famous surf spot – one of the ideas lodged suggested constructing buildings up to seven-storeys tall.

This was the spark that set alight a highly complex, four-year struggle in order to safeguard this endearing Chilean panoramic.

Again, it was Ramón and other locals who banded together, vocalising disdain at the planned development. A short while later, they contacted Save The Waves in California, as an attempt to get the spot dedicated as a World Surfing Reserve. Patagonia also joined in the campaign, providing funds to help with preservation efforts.

Save The Waves acted quickly to recognise Punta de Lobos officially as a World Surfing Reserve, in the hope it would protect the spot from future development – and marking an all too rare victory in the case of surfers vs developers.

However, the campaign was hamstrung slightly, with the announcement that the dedication of a WSR had no legal basis in Chile. But what it achieved was a global jolt of resistance and a rallying call for surfers and environmentalists to back the cause.

Not just an XXL spot, Punta de Lobos is a peeling, rippable left-hander.

Not just an XXL spot, Punta de Lobos is a peeling, rippable left-hander.

© 2017 - Winston Colvin.

Building on that momentum, the group attempted to declare Los Morros as a Chilean National Monument. Yet, after looking into the finer print of doing so, they found it would essentially close the spot to surfers and fishermen, stoppering the area's lifeblood – rendering this approach null and void.

Adding to the complexities of the entire initiative was the fact that the land under threat were privately owned. So any safeguarding efforts would need to consider a price to purchase the area, and then build out a protection initiative.

And meanwhile, Save the Waves and Patagonia launched the “Lobos Por Siempre” campaign, with the goal to raise enough cash to purchase the 4.5 acre Mirador Property at the very tip of Punta de Lobos.

Fast forward a touch, and here enters Nicholas Davis, local entrepreneur, sympathetic to the campaign. Davis ended up acquiring 25 per cent of the land, and thus putting a halt to any development plans. Davis held the property under the agreement to only sell it to the Foundacion Punta de Lobos, when they had raised the money to do so.

With the help of Patagonia, the Marisla Foundation, Packard Foundation, Waitt Foundation and around 900 small donors, more than £750,000 was raised to purchase the property, which will be handed over to the Foundacion soon, protecting the point forever.

The Foundacion's aim is simple and clear cut; to come up with a master plan that will further protect Punta de Lobos from any developments, enhance the biodiversity, preserve surfing and fishing in the area, while engaging with the local community.

That a development worth millions of dollars can be thwarted through years of hard work and a belief in preservation, should resonate across the globe. The focus for the Foundacion now, is to continue investing in eco-friendly initiatives, including creating jobs in reforestation. Further, Punta de Lobos will finally be dedicated as an official World Surfing Reserve on November 16, after being rubber stamped as a WSR back in 2013.

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