I remember paddling out to Indicators in 1999 with the late, great Craig Hughes – one of the leading shapers in Raglan back then. He told me that where surfing thrived, tourism would soon follow. In 1999 Raglan already seemed to be bursting at the seams. We sometimes had to walk to Indicators to escape the crowds on a summer's day. Little did we know Raglan was about to boom, like, really boom. Hughsey knew it.
His anecdotal evidence was backed up by science earlier this year when economist and University of Sydney lecturer Sam Wills co-authored a study of 5000 surf breaks in 146 countries. Wills was inspired to undertake the research after escaping Sydney for a warm, quiet surf spot he knew of: Taghazout in Morocco. He soon discovered the sleepy fishing village had become a thriving, bustling surf hub and was compelled to explore the global trend.
Wills and his team conducted four sets of experiments that all revealed the same thing: good waves increase growth, particularly after new discoveries and in developing countries. The study shows that economic growth can be boosted by 2.2 percentage points per year in the surrounding area where high-quality surf is discovered. The effect was more pronounced in developing countries and the reverse effect was observed where surf breaks disappeared.
The study produced a list of the top 10 fastest-growing surf breaks during the period between 1992 and 2013 with Nosara, Costa Rica, taking the top spot, followed by Yacila, Peru, Shabandar, Malaysia, in three, Dark Reef, Vietnam, in fourth and our very own Omaha, New Zealand, in fifth. Two more Costa Rica spots, Playa Langosta and Playa Guiones took sixth and seventh rounded out by three WA spots: Yallingup, Isolators and Rabbits.
Another study published in the Journal of Coastal Research in 2009 showed that each individual surf session conducted on the Gold Coast in 2007 had an expenditure median around AUD$24.50. In 2007, there were an estimated 6-15 million surf sessions on the Gold Coast injecting between AUD$126 and $233 million into the economy. This study changed the way the region looked at its surf assets, the natural coastal environment and the culture of surfing itself.
Does it matter that there is a socio-economic upswing to surfing? Well, it does if you want to protect the waves and the coastal environment. Having surfbreaks viewed as an asset to a region elevates their value to more than just those who surf them. And thanks to these studies, that value is quantified.
See you at the beach ... Derek
PS South Coast Boardriders is holding a Secondhand Surf Gear Sale this Saturday, November 25, from 9am at the clubrooms on the St Clair Esplanade. They're giving 10% of all sales to the Junior Development Fund. Come grab a bargain, or trade up.
Thanks to Derek Morrison surf & media guru at www.boxoflight.com for this great article