Before COVID-19, global surf tourism spending has been estimated at A $ 91 billion per year. And since the start of the pandemic, the demand for surfing exploded as more and more people look out Activities.

But the benefits of surfing for human well-being are often not studied in economic terms. This is a major knowledge gap that we are now trying to fill.

Such research is important. Shoreline changes, such as dikes and groynes, can dramatically reduce the quality of surf waves. But the consequences of coastal developments on the surf are often very little understood and rarely quantified before the start of projects.

It’s crucial that we understand the real value of surfing, before we lose the myriad of benefits it brings – not just for Australia. 1.2 million active surfers, but in hundreds of coastal towns where surfing is the backbone of the local economy and way of life.

Surf economics

There is a lot of studies on the economic value of Australian beach hobbies such as peach, to swim and diving. But not for surfing.

Internationally, we know that surfing is a major direct contributor to the economy of places rich in waves. However, until recently, the value of surfing for human well-being was largely ignored.

Surfing is a major direct contributor to many local economies all over the world.

This despite recent evidence that surfing is positive social and health results, including among Veterans and children with Chronic diseases.

Surf economics is an emerging area of ​​research that documents and quantifies the total economic value of surfing. This may include, for example, increase in house prices near good quality breaks, or social assistance advantages people derive from visiting surf beaches.

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Building on the previous few surf economy studies in Australia, our research aims to calculate the total economic value of surfing.

Our upcoming study of the Noosa World Surf Reserve to date shows that surfing’s local economic contribution is in the hundreds of millions of dollars. This in terms of the well-being of surfers, as well as direct expenditure on surfing and travel equipment.

Waves form around the rocks in Noosa.

Overseas, the economic contribution is a little clearer. A 2017 study used satellite imagery to demonstrate that economic activity is growing faster near good quality surf spots, especially in developing countries like Indonesia and Brazil.

In the UK only, the overall annual impact of surfing on the national economy is estimated at 5 billion pounds sterling (over 9 billion Australian dollars).

How coastal projects make or break waves

The swell waves are typically trained by winds blowing several kilometers offshore. It is perhaps easy to think that this natural, distant origin means that there is nothing we can do about the formation of waves.

But the truth is that surf waves are the product of complex interactions between waves, tides, currents, wind and sea. seabed shape. Shallow coral reefs, headlands and sandbanks are responsible for creating much sought after waves.

By directly or indirectly affecting any of these factors, the quality of the waves has been altered to better – or for worse.

Mundaka in Spain had world famous waves, until dredging in a nearby river affected the swell.

The world-famous Mundaka wave in northern Spain has temporarily disappeared due to dredging of the nearby mouth modification of ocean dynamics. This resulted in a decline in economic activity and the cancellation of the Billabong Pro World Championship in 2005 and 2006.

In the Portuguese island of Madeira, the construction of a severely rocky wall disturbed the formation of the Jardim do Mar wave in 2005, and a drop in local economic growth rates followed. In Peru, the extension of a fishing wharf has had a negative impact Cap Blanco, one of the best barrel waves in Peru, by shortening its length.

Closer to home, the Ocean Reef Marina, currently under construction in North Perth, will have a significant impact on three local surf spots. About 1.5 kilometers of mostly unmodified beaches are being redeveloped into a brand new marina.

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Studies have shown that well-planned coastal management interventions can dramatically increase the benefits for surfers and non-surfers.

One of the most iconic examples is the “superbank” of Snapper Rocks on the Gold Coast. There, a world-class wave forms thanks to the river displaced sediment through the Tweed sand bypass project.

World-class waves at Snapper Rock on the Gold Coast.

The project is expensive to operate, but its expense is offset by improving the quality of the surf and beach facilities, which underpin the local economy and the active, nature-based lifestyle that the Gold Coast is famous for.

Give the waves legal protection

Building on efforts almost 40 years ago to protect The iconic wave of Bells Beach in Victoria, Peru and New Zealand have granted legal protection to their surf spots under environmental protection laws.

In practice, this means threats to surf spots from coastal activities, such as wastewater discharges or the construction of offshore structures, should be avoided or mitigated.

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Similar recognition and valuation of surfing resources is needed and would be of great benefit to Australia.

A rigorous scientific assessment of the total economic value of surfing could be used to inform the cost-benefit analysis of coastal management programs. These may include fight against erosion to protect the coastline, or construction artificial surf reefs.

In these uncertain times of COVID-19, many of us cannot travel far yet. But with 85% of Australians living on the coast, many of us can still catch a wave on our doorstep – and that’s priceless.

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