Surfing Montauk with Debra Rose

The Economy of Surfing

The ocean did not change…you did.

Debra Rose

Surfers are aware of the power of the ocean, and lately the ocean is benefiting from the power of surfers.  The ecosystems that support marine life are also what surfers depend on to make their playtime possible, creating a symbiotic relationship in which surfing can support the environment rather than destroy it.

The breaks, beaches and environment surrounding the surf are as precious as they are vulnerable to increasing natural threats, making their sustainability a challenge.  To protect the coast and the communities that benefit from a healthy ecosystem, surfers are having an impact on environmental protection and policy.

Surfing continues to be closely tied to economics.

The planet has about 8000 known surf breaks, with about a quarter of them found in The United States and Australia combined.  We have witnessed a boom in the sport and a sharp increase of surfers in the world, which is now about fifty-million people.  Rising demand for boards and waves are a positive outcome from the world recognizing the benefits of this water-based sport.  Being active outdoors during COVID and an awareness accelerated by the platform of the Olympics in 2021 also contributed to the explosion in surfing’s popularity.  Surfers are some of the closest observers of change in the environment and can play a key role in promoting preservation of our seas.  With an increase in surf travel, a rise in property values with proximity to waves and local businesses benefitting from the surf industry, the sport of surfing has a global impact on the world economy as well as the marine life.

Interventions from beach cleaning, protecting reefs and preventing erosion, forming access paths and dune preservation have all contributed to supporting our oceans and surroundings.  The threat of losing surf breaks, clean water and fragile coastlines have prompted awareness to influence policies, environmental guidelines, and coastal legislation.  Its more than safeguarding the surf break, it’s about caring for our environment for the present and the future.

We have heard about the loss of world-class breaks in Perth, Madeira, San Francisco and Mundaka due to construction of marinas, dumping of garbage, dredging activities, and building artificial reefs, ruining the waves, and ultimately halting economic growth for locals.  Areas in Latin America, Southeast Asia and the South Pacific run the risk of excess surf tourism and mismanagement of resources that also can contribute to threats to the ecosystem.

The culture and popularity of surfing continues to expand and contribute to the protection of valuable natural assets that benefit communities economically, socially, and physically.  By raising awareness and working together, surfing can safeguard our seas and increase ocean literacy on a global scale.  Surfing’s value goes beyond the individual joy of the activity, it is an instrument to draw urgency in preserving our planet.