|September 8, 2009
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Contact: Tina Haisman, ASBPA Media Relations, 239-292-2882 or firstname.lastname@example.org
Tom Pierro, P.E., Coastal Planning & Engineering, Inc., (561) 391-8102 EXT 142 or email@example.com
Coastal engineers have tools to preserve
both beaches and surfing
Coastal engineers say increased awareness, new modeling tools and interaction between user groups, project designers and environmental agencies can help avoid potential conflicts between coastal engineering practices and the nation's surfing community.
FORT MYERS, FL - Good surfing can only happen with good waves. So, what makes for a good wave?
First, it is important to know that wind generates waves. This happens in two ways - long period swells originate from storms far out in the ocean; and short, choppy waves develop from local wind conditions. The clean swells from offshore storms are preferred for surfing, but the choppy local waves can also be surfed.
There are three primary types of waves in the world of surfing:
• Plunging breaker - these peak in shallow water and break in a rapid "tubing" fashion
• Spilling breaker - these occur over a wider area and break slower by crumbling or "spilling" over
• Surging breaker - these break right at the shoreline, "surging" up the beach face all at once.
"Depending on the level of a surfer's ability, prime surfing is somewhere between a spilling breaker and plunging breaker," says Tom Pierro, an avid surfer and a coastal engineer with Coastal Planning & Engineering, Inc.
However, there's more to surfing than wind. There are three other primary factors: the profile shape of the seabed, which influences how the waves break; the type of sand on the beach, primarily related to grain size; and any structures on or near a beach, such as jetties, breakwaters, reefs or groins.
This is usually where the conflicts between coastal management and surfers come into play. Often, coastal engineers are charged with fixing erosion problems on beaches. They have an array of tools at their disposal, including beach renourishment (adding sand back to the beach) or adding structures to better contain the sand and deal with erosional "hot spots."
"An eroded beach is usually a great place to surf, because it has volatile wave energy ? which is, in fact, the cause of the erosion," Pierro says. As a result, when coastal engineers fix an erosion problem, surfers may become frustrated if it also decreases the quality of their surfing experience.
"The exciting news is that we now have modeling techniques we can use to determine what a project will do to the surfing climate in that area," Pierro said. "We can actually work with the surfers to preserve their surfing, while restoring and protecting the beach at the same time."
There are a variety of tools engineers can use to evaluate the potential effects. For example, one wave calculation now possible can tell engineers what type of wave will break at a given location based on the slope of the beach. Numerical modeling of breaking waves further allows them to analyze potential modifications to a project to allow their design to maximize both restoration of the beach and surfing.
When it comes to adding structures to beaches, engineers can now calculate the peel angle (where a wave will break) and other wave characteristics to determine how the structure will affect the surf. "Any structure you add to a beach creates an anomaly in the shoreline. It gives the wave something to focus on and can create peeling waves, which may actually improve the surf," Pierro said. "The important news here is that we can research how adding a structure to a beach will impact the surf."
Pierro is currently working on a project in Upham Beach in Pinellas County, Florida, where he is using these new models and research methods to stabilize a beach and maintain a good surfing area. "This is a very proactive step forward with surfers," he said.
For more information, check out ASBPA's Fall 2007 issue of "Shore and Beach," which was dedicated to shore protection and surfing, or visit www.asbpa.org.
# # #
ABOUT ASBPA: Founded in 1926, the ASBPA promotes the integration of science, policies and actions that maintain, protect and enhance the coasts of America. For more information on ASBPA, go to www.asbpa.org, facebook or www.twitter.com/asbpa.