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The Point is Forever

Patagonia  /  24 oct. 2017  /  5 min de lecture  /  Surf, Activisme

Punta de Lobos is awarded World Surfing Reserve status—an all too rare conservation success story.

Punta de Lobos is an all-too-rare conservation success story. Pichilemu, Chile. Photo: Jason Murray

On the best days—on any day, in fact—the view from the Mirador is about as beautiful as one could ever imagine. Past the stands of cactus in the foreground, you look out to the castle-like ramparts of the Morros, the swirling congregations of seabirds, and the long lines of swell marching in from the Pacific and barreling into whitewater as they sweep along the point.

It’s a vista that the people of Punta de Lobos have admired for generations, becoming an integral part of their lives and identities in this small community on the Chilean coast. But like any beautiful ocean view, it’s also been highly coveted by developers in recent years—because to their minds, what seascape wouldn’t be that much better from the seventh floor of a condo tower?

The surfers and fishing families of Punta de Lobos have never thought that way, thankfully, and ground level has always worked just fine to gaze out at one of the world’s best lefthand points. Though it’s surfable at almost any size, Lobos holds well into the XXL range, and it was on big winter days here that our close friend and surf ambassador Ramón Navarro honed his skills in heavy surf. Though he hailed from a place far removed from the centers of the surf industry, his fearless performances earned him a deserved place among the world’s big wave elite.

Photo: Juan Luis De Heeckeren

Ramón Navarro very much at home at Punta de Lobos. Photo: Juan Luis De Heeckeren

In the years that followed, traveling around the world to ride huge waves only reinforced something Ramón had always known—that the place where he grew up was priceless and absolutely irreplaceable. So when Ramón, along with other local activists, learned that there were potential plans for large-scale development along the Lobos shoreline, they rallied hard to protect the place they loved. Their vision was to keep the area’s marine and terrestrial environments as intact as possible, to keep development in check, and to ensure continued access to the ocean for the community of people who called Lobos home.

Before long, with Ramón’s leadership, a passionate group of local surfers, environmentalists, government officials and business leaders banded together, and Patagonia decided to do as much as possible to help. Save The Waves Coalition led a successful crowdfunding campaign called Lobos Por Siempre, gathering small donations from surfers all over the world; Chris Malloy directed a short film and collected stories for a book to raise awareness; Patagonia then matched $100,000 in donations, with the funds helping local activists establish the nonprofit Fundación Punta de Lobos. Work began to establish Lobos as a World Surfing Reserve, and to raise funds to purchase private properties along the point and transfer them to the Fundación for conservation.

This past summer, we donated $150,000 from our PSI Vest licensing program to the campaign. But a substantial funding gap still remained before the Mirador, the iconic property at the top of the point, could be purchased.

Believing in the necessity of taking practical action to protect threatened places, we decided to donate another substantial sum to close the gap. Chilean philanthropist Nicholas Davis had generously held the Mirador in trust until it could be purchased for conservation, and it has now been successfully transferred to the Fundación—saving the Mirador from development forever. ¡Por siempre!

Punta de Lobos now has full status as a World Surfing Reserve, and a celebration of the reserve’s dedication will be held this November. It’s an all-too-rare conservation success story, and huge thanks are owed to everyone who contributed to the campaign in ways great or small.

Photo: Rodrigo Farias Moreno

The iconic headland at Punta de Lobos will remain free of development now that the threatened property at the tip of the point has been purchased and transferred to the Fundación Punta de Lobos. Photo: Rodrigo Farias Moreno

“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. 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.”

Looking forward, the shared vision to preserve Punta de Lobos stretches far beyond the Mirador. The Fundación is still in need of support to restore and preserve the point, and it is currently working to acquire further properties at Punta de Lobos to protect their beauty and biodiversity for generations to come.

Photo: Mara Milam

Surfing isn’t the only activity that will be preserved in Pichilemu. This fisherman, a relative of Ramón’s, visits the beach every morning to dive for mollusks. They’re a local favorite and also good for your immune system. Ramón samples the day’s catch before paddling out for a surf. Photo: Mara Milam

“Nature is the only thing we can count on for real and forever. And we have an amazing opportunity to do things right, to learn from many mistakes, and to upraise as much as possible our unique nature while it’s being developed so fast,” notes Matías Alcade, the Fundación’s executive director.

“We need to care and make people care. We need to find market-based solutions, upstream from the final environmental problems. I have been inspired working with a unique group of humans, giving a special mention to Ramón Navarro and Nicholas Davis who are really creating a difference. That difference, plus the relevance that Punta de Lobos has for surfers, tourists and scientists, will help this serve as a prototype for future settlements along our coastline. We have the opportunity to save what’s important, and the moment is now.”

It’s Not Too Late to Help

Looking forward, the vision to preserve Punta de Lobos stretches far beyond the Mirador. The Fundación is still in need of support to restore and preserve the point, and it is currently working to acquire further properties at Punta de Lobos to protect their beauty and biodiversity for generations to come.

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