The Economics of Surfing Explained

Surfing is a surface water sport where the surfer rides a board moving forward through a series of waves toward the beach. To surf, the wave must be at a particular height that could be as low as 1.5 meters to as high as more than 10 meters. Such a range of wave height is considered a quality wave. So, the quality of the wave is the most important aspect of surfing sport.

The fact is not every beach has such quality waves. However, once a beach is known for having quality waves, then slowly but surely, it will attract more surfers to visit. In general, the surfer crowds that visit such a beach shall steadily increase in time. Furthermore, after becoming famous, a particular surfing destination beach shall start its economic development. That is what we call the economics of surfing.

The Economic Evolution

From an unknown beach to becoming a popular surfing destination can take about 1 to 3 years. Economic evolution usually starts when an individual surfer or a group of surfers visit an “unknown” beach. Once succeeded, they later became known as the pioneer surfers of the respective beach.

In general, the group might stay around 2 weeks to 1 month for an observation to get convinced of the beach’s wave quality. Further, next to assessing the quality of waves, they used to make documentation and collect related information about the beach's surrounding area.

In doing so, the pioneer surfers shall also conduct continuous communication with locals in the area. Where, at a later stage, the interaction shall at least involve a popular villager or the head of the village where the beach is located. The collected information includes the environmental condition, local culture, religion, important laws & regulations, and the local economy. Villagers’ livelihood and the cost of living, such as meals, transportation, accommodation, etc., are part of the local economic information.

In terms of accommodation, if there is not any close decent hotel or lodging available, information on a rented room or house or land space could be useful as a start. So, all of those activities of the pioneer surfer produced valuable information. At a later stage, such valuable information becomes the embryo of the surfing economic evolution.

How Fast is the Growth

As mentioned earlier, to become a popular surfing beach destination, it will take about 1 to 3 years in general. Local stakeholders’ involvement becomes a decisive factor in the acceleration of growth, especially if they engage in providing the related pro-tourism policy. As they could also drive the development of the required tourism infrastructure of the area.

The story of Nazaré, in Portugal, can be applied as a good example. How fast has the area grown from an unknown traditional fishing village into today’s well-known beach tourism city destination? It started when the quality 24-meter wave of Nazaré was discovered in 2011 by Garret Mc Namara, an American surfer.

Within 3 years after it was discovered, Nazaré became one of the world’s most visited beach cities. In 2014, Nazaré recorded an increase from 80,000 visitors in 2015 to 174,000 in 2017. One of the important actions that motivated the growth acceleration was a communication campaign funded by the Nazaré Mayor.

It was a 2 million Euro promotion campaign that had proven to drive such fast growth. Decisive policy support accelerated the substantial economic benefits that were started by the Nazaré beach quality wave.

The Positive Impact and Risk Mitigation

Surfing economics, which is then referred to as Surfonomics, has been proven to have a positive impact on local communities of the related beach. As surfers from all over the world continued to visit the beach, this then encouraged further economic development in the area. The area around the beach location will continue to develop with the emergence of hotels, restaurants, tourism facilities, and related tourism shops.

However, surfing economics is not just about commercial profit. Relevant stakeholders must also be aware of the sustainability of the coastal environment. Risk mitigation needs to be done to maintain the value of wave quality. Reckless and unmeasured development can damage the value of the wave quality in the long run.

Maintaining a balance between preserving the coastal environment and developing tourism areas is an ideal condition. With well-measured risk mitigation, the beach can one day be known as an environmentally friendly tourist destination, in addition to the attraction of its quality waves.

Currently, Surfing Economics has been designated as the Surfonomics Method. A method that plays a key role in the development of several beach tourist spots. Surfonomics combines commercial cost and benefit analysis with coastal environmental impact analysis. The Surfonomics method surged to provide the right business planning for establishing an ideal surfing beach tourist spot.

The Investor Attraction

Rapid economic growth driven by the quality of the waves at a particular beach surfing location attracts the attention of investors. The construction of beach villas, hotels, restaurants, and other related properties promises lucrative profits. As of today, the Surfing Industry has proven its positive economic impact on the beach tourism market.

Additionally, the idea of building wave-shaped inland water lagoons has become trendy in the water park industry. These business opportunities will certainly increase the attractiveness of investment in related industries. However, the involved investors must be aware of applying the Surfonomics method in order to achieve a sustainable, profitable business.

The Outlook of the World’s Surfing Economics 

The surfing industry has grown today with a promising market opportunity. Market insight is forecasted with a substantial expansion from $9.5 billion in 2022 to $17.1 billion by 2032. A promising CAGR movement to 6% during such forecasted periods. 

In terms of surfer population, the International Surfing Association (ISA) predicted that there are between 20 to 35 million surfers in the world. Australia ranks first with 6 to 7 million surfers.

From a surfing spot's point of view, there are over 1000 locations, including the best 50 surfing spots. Gold Coast (Australia), Jeffrey’s Bay (South Africa), Bukit Peninsula (Bali, Indonesia), Malibu (USA), and Oahu (Hawaii, USA) are the top 5 surfing spots. In the future there are more locations shall be developed and established.

Oliver Jones

Written by Oliver Jones

I'm a dedicated surfer and writer, and my heart truly belongs to the ocean. Surfing is not just a sport but a way of life for me. I ride the waves in the water and on paper, pouring my passion into every word I write.

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