Madeira - new threat to world class wave

Alex Dick-Read


Paul do Mar, Madeira. This area is unique to the surfing world and its now under threat, again, from an unnecessary sea wall. Photo is by Al Mackinnon from Jardim do Mar nearby. It appears in his Madeira photo-feature in Issue 85 of TSP.

The Madeiran government is at it again, this time at Paul do Mar, one of three world class pointbreaks within a three mile stretch of the island’s SW coast.
After spending millions of Euros on a scheme to ‘protect’ the village of Jardim do Mar with a sea wall that badly messed with the famous big wave pointbreak out front (it still breaks but only at low tide on big swells, not on all tides on most swells like it used to) the government is now proposing a new road and harbour wall for the town next door, Paul do Mar. Paul’s wave is one of three magnificent wonders of the surfing world. While Jardim is famous as a big wave point, Jardim is famous for its more peaky, but still perfect and giant tubes. Often compared to Backdoor, Hawaii, Paul’s wave breaks over a boulder reef that runs the length of the town’s sea front. and it is here that the government, in a pre-election vote-winning gamble – plans to make some huge changes that will affect the surf break. The plan is to extend the seafront out onto the boulder reef, to accommodate a new road and protective harbour wall.

This plan could just be electioneering based, as it is on the shaky premise that the town and its homes are under threat from the sea (which it isn’t, for at least a few thousand years). But we’re bringing this to your attention now in order to generate a groundswell of surfer support for protection of the wave at Paul.
Below is a piece, translated from Portuguese explaining the plans and context in more detail. There is a Facebook page called Save Wave Paul do Mar which you should look at, and its worth getting n touch with www.savethewaves.org, too to see how we can all help save this absolute gem of a wave.

Important notice:
Do not make the same mistakes as before – with Jardim do Mar in mind (now text also available in English, step by step)

Madeiran Government announced the decision to move on with the project of a road and seawall protection on the shoreline in Paul do Mar, from the road leading to the wharf at East until the graveyard area at West. The topic is the security of ninety families living in the area because of the sea advancement, said local newspaper Diário (13.8.2011). It sounds like Jardim do Mar promenade and seawall in Jardim do Mar, part 2. Protecting the houses and keeping intact the surf break is possible. Both goals can be achieved. In front of the surf break there are no houses in danger because of the sea.

As you can check on the picture presented, the new road and seawall (green), go much further out than the existing seawall (red/pink colour) and further West too, passing the graveyard area. This expansion endangers the surf spot in front of the graveyard area as the seawall will be built in the surf break.

The wave in Paul do Mar is very much appreciated for its frequency, regularity, access and it offers intense and extreme surfing experiences. That is why competitions have taken place there. Damaging or destroying it would be a tremendous loss for surf and for the tourism and natural heritage of the island.

How can local authorities defend surf, using its images to promote Madeira as a tourism destination, support surf competitions in that surf spot in Paul do Mar, and at the same time keep destroying the natural conditions for surfing? It’s more than enough what has already been damaged and destroyed in other places like Ponta Delgada or Jardim do Mar, just nearby.

However, we are living in a period before elections in October with lots of announcements, without forgetting that in the present economical and social crisis in Portugal, people will have more urgent concerns and needs than concrete seawalls, and we do not know (and if) this construction will be done in the near future. Madeira has no money, as recently announced by its Government. And the situation is not going to change anytime soon.

The construtction project is now on public tender for the estimated price of 7 Million Euros as Diário informs (20.8.2011), and it is funded by the European Union but Madeira has to put in some percentage of that sum. More information soon on this matter.

The public tender was authorized recently (resolution 1134/2011 of Conselho de Governo on the 11th of August, published on the 17th of August in the Oficial Madeira Journal Jornal – Joram). This way the Government “launches” the new road/seawall within the limit of 2011. As Diário says, the «resolution was based in Plano e Programa de Investimentos e Despesas de Desenvolvimento da RAM (PIDDAR) for 2011, in line with PDES – Plano de Desenvolvimento Económico e Social 2007/2013, and also in the Program of Government that started ruling in 2007 and ends now next October. Some years after de first part of Paul do Mar protection, this second part is oficially entitled “Ligação Marginal entre o Cemitério e o Cais do Paul do Mar” (Connection of the coastal road between the Graveyard and Wharf of Paul do Mar.»

In spite of the present economical problems, surfers and citizens in general must be aware and do everything they can to value that surf spot in Paul do Mar and prevent any damage or desctrution.

According to the Government announcement last Thursday (August 11), the goal is to have a 445 meters long road by (actually in) the sea connecting the square area of the graveyard at West with the road that leads to the wharf area at East.

And Government adds: “the new road will have two lines measuring 3.5 meters each one, adding a 1.5 meters sidewallk (South/sea) and 1.2 meters (North/shore). The road will be on a platform conquered to the sea along the shoreline already occupied by houses. Along the new road will be built a seawall and protection from the sea that will be about 500 meters long.”

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