After a few weeks of uncertainty for Nor’eastern surfers, the acclaimed Rhode Island surf spot Ruggles was saved in a combined effort by surfers and activists. Decent pointbreaks that can handle 10- to 15-foot faces are hard to come by, particularly on the East Coast. That’s why protecting this peeling righthander in Newport, Rhode Island, was well worth the fight.
Three weeks ago, Ruggles was threatened by plans to restore the iconic Cliff Walk that skirts the rocky shoreline originally damaged by Hurricane Sandy in October. Authorities were able to bypass the usual process thanks to special emergency rules governing Hurricane Sandy relief. In order to complete this ambitious project, the Rhode Island Department of Transportation proposed a stone break wall, reaching 20 feet from the Cliff Walk to the high tide line, and two temporary jetties—200 feet long and 40 feet wide—in the center of the Ruggles lineup. A project like this would ruin the spot and devastate Rhode Island surfers, and would only perpetuate the notion that saving waves isn’t a priority.
So Rhode Island locals and Water Brothers Surf Shop owner Sid Abruzzi stepped in and stormed a Newport City Council meeting to protest the city’s plans to initiate construction. Speeches and presentations were heard by Marine Biologist Drew Carey, Newport City Manager Scott Wheeler, and local surfer Brian Burns. The presentations preached respect to the environment and natural ecology, finding the proper (and least damaging) way to fix the Cliff Walk, and determining how the money could be better spent.
And like that, Ruggles was saved. While this victory may seem like an isolated event, surfers should be encouraged by the activism and charisma shown by those who participated in saving Ruggles, and be reminded that as coastlines continue to develop, the burden to protect them remains on our shoulders.