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North Devon has become the first place in the UK to be selected as a World Surfing Reserve (WSR).

It joins a list that includes Malibu and Santa Cruz in California, and the Gold Coast and Manly in Australia.

The WSR recognises the quality of the surf as well as the sport’s importance to the wider community. The WSR programme was launched in 2009 in California with the aim of “protecting surf ecosystems around the globe”. The North Devon coast already has Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty protection and an area around Braunton Burrows is a Unesco Biosphere for its landscapes, wildlife areas and cultural heritage. The reserve covers about 30km (19 miles) of coastline.

A WSR spokesperson said: “Its high density of outstanding surf, at iconic breaks such as Croyde, Saunton, Woolacombe, and Lynmouth, caters to wave-riders from beginner to expert and a variety of surfing styles.” North Devon surfer Kevin Cook, who proposed making the area a surfing reserve, said he hoped the new designation would “help influence” decision makers. “We are about collaboration and taking existing good practice to keep an eye on what’s going on and ensure that the future of north Devon is protected,” he said.

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